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Bush Solicitor General will defend DOMA lawsuits for House Republican leadership

WASHINGTON – Former Republican Solicitor General Paul Clement has been hired by the House Republican leadership as counsel to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.

Clement served under President George W. Bush as the government’s lawyer before the Supreme Court and currently works as a partner at the firm King & Spaulding.

“Not only are House Republican leaders defending the indefensible, they’ve brought in a high-priced attorney to deny federal recognition to loving, married couples,” said Joe Solmonese, HRC president.

“Speaker [John] Boehner appears ready to go to great lengths, and the great expense of a high-power law firm, to try to score some cheap political points on the backs of same-sex couples. King & Spaulding were not required to take up this defense and should be ashamed of associating themselves with an effort to deny rights to their fellow citizens.”

Earlier today, Boehner released a letter he sent to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in which he endorsed a right-wing plan to defund part of the Department of Justice because of the Obama administration’s analysis that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

“With such a high-priced lawyer, it’s no wonder the Speaker is grasping at straws in order to justify spending taxpayer money on defending discrimination,” Solmonese said. “Next he’ll probably call for slashing Education Department funding because kids might learn it’s unconstitutional to discriminate against certain groups of people.”

According to a March 2011 poll conducted by HRC and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 51% of voters opposed DOMA and 54% opposed the House Republican’s intervention in cases challenging its constitutionality.

“With the American people clamoring for leaders to deal with the economy, voters are no doubt scratching their heads wondering how a boondoggle for right-wing lawyers is going to help their pocketbooks,” Solmonese said.

With the House intervention in this case, a number of important questions remain unanswered by House Republican Leaders:

-- There are as many as nine lawsuits in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. Will House Republicans intervene in all of these lawsuits?

-- Now that the House has retained Clement, has a conflict and ethics check been conducted? Will the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group be consulted on strategic decisions related to the litigation?

-- How much taxpayer money will this all cost?

-- What will the House argue in defending DOMA? Will they go back to Congress’s 1996 arguments for passing the law – that it is necessary because marriage equality is “a radical, untested and inherently flawed social experiment” and contrary to the “moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality”?

-- The Justice Department stopped defending DOMA because they concluded that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation should receive a higher level of scrutiny by courts. Will the House Republican leaders disagree? If so, will they argue that gays and lesbians have not suffered a long history of discrimination? That sexual orientation is somehow relevant to an individual’s ability to contribute to society, when they have four openly-gay colleagues? That gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation, a position at odds with every major psychological organization? That gays and lesbians are politically powerful, ironically in defending a law passed by Congress specifically to disadvantage them?

-- Do they think they’ll win, especially given that in two DOMA-related cases in Massachusetts, a federal judge appointed by President Nixon has already found Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional even under the lowest level of scrutiny that gives great deference to the legislature?

-- Apart from these cases, will Republican House leadership do anything to address the inequalities that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face?