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Obama Shift Thrusts DOMA Bill Into Spotlight

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
The House was lining up a vote on an amendment by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (right) to the Justice Department’s spending bill on the same day that President Barack Obama endorsed gay marriage on national television.

Obama’s announcement could also bolster opponents such as Huelskamp. Republicans in the House had hoped to avoid engaging in social issues over the next several weeks in order to focus on economic issues. But Obama’s decision to endorse gay marriage has put the issue front and center on the national stage.

Meanwhile, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network on Wednesday sought to block Speaker John Boehner’s efforts to intervene in a DOMA case involving gay and lesbian members of the armed forces.

Last week, the Ohio Republican directed the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to intervene in McLaughlin v. U.S., which challenges restrictions on benefits for gay and lesbian couples.

In a release, SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said, “The Obama Administration has wisely decided not to defend these unconstitutional and discriminatory laws that hurt military families, and Speaker Boehner is attempting to appoint himself to a role that is expressly reserved to the executive branch of our government.”

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck dismissed SLDN’s complaint, noting that the Republican leader followed the proper procedures in directing the intervention.

“It was determined through consultations with each office — the process used to make such decisions regularly under then-Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] — that a majority of the BLAG believes the constitutionality of this statute, which the attorney general described as ‘identical in material respect to the language of Section 3 of DOMA,’ should be determined by the judicial branch, not through a unilateral decree of the president,” Buck said.

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