Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Wednesday evening that the House will defend in court the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. The action comes after President Obama instructed the Justice Department last month to no longer defend the law, which bans the federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
“Today, after consultation with the Bipartisan Leadership 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 Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group consists of three Republican members of the House — Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — and two Democrats: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.).
The group has the authority to instruct House General Counsel Kerry Kirchner to take legal action on behalf of the lower chamber, and it often gets involved in situations where House leaders believe there are institutional or separation-of-powers issues involved.
Pelosi tweeted Wednesday evening that she and Hoyer voted against the resolution while Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy voted for it.
The resolution calls on the speaker to direct the House General Counsel to “take such steps as he considers appropriate,” including filing an amicus brief, to “protect the interests of the House in litigation in which the Attorney General has ceased to defend the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
Pelosi expressed concern over the potential cost and length of such an intervention.
“Given the complexity and number of cases, this legal challenge would sap hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, if not more, during a time of limited fiscal resources,” she said. “Pursuing this legal challenge distracts from our core challenges: creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, and responsibly reducing the deficit.”