The House voted to require the federal government to comply with the Defense of Marriage Act late Wednesday night in the wake of President Barack Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage.
The language passed on a largely party-line vote of 275-171, with 16 Democrats supporting and seven Republicans opposing the provision.
The amendment to the Justice Department’s spending bill was offered by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) and would not block the Department of Justice from arguing DOMA is unconstitutional.
Additionally, because the administration is following federal restrictions on gay marriages, it appeared to largely be symbolic in nature.
That didn’t stop lawmakers from engaging in an often-heated debate.
Huelskamp warned the language needed to be included in order to prevent the Department of Justice from “ultimately undermining the rule of law. ... The Department of Justice and the president of the United States don’t need to agree with the law. But they do have to enforce it.”
Huelskamp also attacked Obama’s handling of the law, arguing that “the administration is turning the Justice Department into a mouthpiece for its political campaign rather than its purpose in enforcing the law,” making it “the department of politics.”
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) fired back, deriding the amendment as having no effect.
“If it were to be law in an hour, it does not appear it would affect anything that is now happening in the federal government,” Frank said, noting that while the administration doesn’t support it, the law remains in effect and “there are no things now going on where the federal government recognizes the rights of same-sex marriages.”
The amendment also drew the ire of Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio). Although he supports the Defense of Marriage Act, LaTourette was harshly critical of Huelskamp’s provision, arguing, “this amendment is symptomatic of what I think has been the problem of this Congress since it convened.”
“This matter will be resolved. The courts will say this is constitutional or unconstitutional, and we’ll all abide by the law,” LaTourette said, noting that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has retained outside counsel for the House to defend the law.
Huelskamp had originally sought to offer an amendment blocking the Department of Justice from arguing the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional in court.
However, that amendment was ruled out of order, forcing him to instead pursue the amendment simply requiring federal compliance with the law.
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.