WASHINGTON – Speaker John Boehner and the House Republican leadership have finally decided to stop defending Defense of Marriage (DOMA) lawsuits in federal court.
To date, the House’s so-called Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), controlled by Boehner and his GOP lieutenants, have spent millions of dollars of taxpayer money to defend the discriminatory law.
BLAG today filed a legal document in a district court in Massachusetts asking to “withdraw as a party defendant.”
The case is Shannon L. McLaughlin v. Leon Panetta, another legal attack on the constitutionality of DOMA and concerned veterans’ benefits and same-gender marriages. Massachusetts is one of the 13 states, along with the District of Columbia, where marriage is legal for gay and lesbian couples.
Maj. McLaughlin is a judge advocate general in the Massachusetts Army National Guard and is married to Casey. The women, through the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and their attorneys, sued the government because veteran benefits define “spouse” as a person of the opposite sex. They argued that they are being denied benefits afforded straight married couples.
BLAG’s chief attorney, Paul D. Clement, cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Winsor, which struck down Section 3 of DOMA.
“The Windsor decision necessarily resolves the issue of DOMA Section 3’s constitutionality in this case. While the question of whether [Title 38] is constitutional remains open, the House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that statute.”
The document also said that BLAG took no position on whether “judgment should … enter for plaintiffs in this case.”
Judge Richard Stearns, who helms the case, had asked defendants to respond by Thursday to his question of whether he should grant judgment on behalf of the plaintiffs, in light of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said he was glad that BLAG has seen the light.
"It took a Supreme Court ruling, but House Republicans have finally taken a step toward joining the majority of Americans who have come to understand that marriage does not need defending from committed couples – and that, as Dick Cheney put it, ‘freedom means freedom for everyone.’
"The House leadership spent millions of taxpayer dollars unsuccessfully defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act that the Supreme Court held is indefensible. They could and should now help redeem those dollars by doing what Congress is supposed to do – pass the Respect for Marriage Act and get the discriminatory so-called Defense of Marriage Act off the books once and for all," Wolfson said.