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House GOP leaders moved Wednesday to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Voting 3-2 along partisan lines, a group of House leaders adopted a resolution to intervene in pending cases challenging the 1996 law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. President Barack Obama declared the law unconstitutional last month, and he instructed the Justice Department to stop defending it in court. Obama’s announcement prompted Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to convene the five-member Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which comprises Republican and Democratic leaders, to determine whether the House should take legal action.
“Today, after consultation with the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, the House General Counsel has been directed to initiate a legal defense of this law,” Boehner said in a statement. “This action by the House will ensure that this law’s constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally.”
The members of the bipartisan group are Boehner, 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.). Cantor offered the resolution that all three Republicans supported and both Democrats opposed.
Also present at the meeting, which took place in Boehner’s office, was Kerry Kircher, the general counsel of the House. Boehner appointed Kircher to the post earlier this year; he serves as a nonpartisan adviser on legal issues before the House.
Democratic opponents of DOMA blasted Wednesday night’s decision. In a joint statement, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Barney Frank (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Jared Polis (Colo.), David Cicilline (R.I.) and John Conyers (Mich.) said the vote was “carried over the vigorous objection of House Democratic Leaders” and showcased “partisanship at its worst.”
“Rather than seeking to defend this law in court, House Republican Leaders should work with us to repeal DOMA,” the statement read.