Speaker John Boehner on Friday announced he would inject the House into the legal fight over the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
In a statement released Friday, the Ohio Republican said he was convening the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.
“I will convene a meeting of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group for the purpose of initiating action by the House to defend this law of the United States, which was enacted by a bipartisan vote in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton,” Boehner said in the statement.
The group is made up of himself, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
The White House last month announced that it would no longer defend the law, which bans gay marriages, in federal court.
Conservative activists have denounced that decision, and in his statement Boehner accused President Barack Obama of opening “this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy.”
Boehner has come under criticism from social conservatives who believe the GOP has focused too heavily on economic issues and not enough on social policy priorities such as abortion and gay rights.
Although his decision should please those critics, Boehner was careful to not endorse the constitutionality of the law, saying the courts should make that determination and not the White House.
“The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally — and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution,” Boehner said.
In a statement, Cantor praised Boehner’s decision and criticized the White House.
“This regrettable decision was based on a standard no court has yet found to apply and is a clear political exercise by the Administration. Rather than finding ways to undermine traditional marriage, the Administration should be focused on strengthening the economy and getting people back to work. House Republicans will continue our efforts to cut spending, grow the economy and create jobs, while ensuring that the Administration’s failure to fulfill its constitutional duty does not leave duly enacted laws undefended,” Cantor said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.