The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, convened by Republican House Speaker John Boehner (OH) voted 3-2 yesterday to authorize the House to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. Both Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) voted against the proposal. In February, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Obama administration will no longer defend DOMA in court on the grounds that it considers the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
Joe Solmoese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, stated, “Apparently, the Republicans’ jobs plan is a full employment project for right-wing lawyers bent on defending discrimination. With today’s vote, Speaker Boehner has made clear that an anti-equality agenda trumps helping American families in tough economic times, including loving and committed couples who are legally married in their states.”
The federal law banning same-sex marriage nevertheless remains in place. Currently, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington DC allow marriage of same-sex couples. Six states, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii allow same-sex couples to form civil unions or domestic partnerships, which carry many of the benefits of marriage.
DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman and denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages, as well as the legal benefits attached to marriage, including Social Security survivors’ benefits, family and medical leave, and immigration rights. DOMA was passed in 1996.