House GOP lawyers withdraw from gay marriage case

(FILES) In this file picture taken on December 21, 2005, Roger Lewis (L) and Keith Wilmott Goodall hold hands at Brighton and Hove register office in Brighton before becoming one of the first same sex couples in England and Wales to form legal civil partnerships. Britain legalised gay marriage Wednesday after Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal assent to a bill approved by lawmakers, paving the way for the first same sex weddings in 2014. AFP PHOTO/CARL DE SOUZACARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
(Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

House Republican leaders withdrew Thursday from defending the Defense of Marriage Act and similar statutes in a court case in Massachusetts, citing the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the gay-marriage ban.

In a court filing, the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which played a lead role in attempting to force the Obama administration to enforce DOMA and is controlled by Republicans, said it is withdrawing from McLaughlin v. Panetta — a case in which gay members of the U.S. military challenged the constitutionality of the law and similar statutes when it comes to spousal benefits.

"The Supreme Court recently resolved the issue of DOMA Section 3’s constitutionality," the House GOP's lawyers write. "The Windsor decision necessarily resolves the issue of DOMA Section 3’s constitutionality in this case."

The document goes on to say that the constitutionality of another statute at issue in the case — known as Title 38 — remains unresolved.

But, it says, "the House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that statute. Accordingly, the House now seeks leave to withdraw as a party defendant."

In short, the House GOP is no longer defending the key portion of DOMA, and it won't defend a statute -- Title 38 -- that features similar language but hasn't technically been struck down yet.

The move isn't terribly surprising, given the Supreme Court's decision. But is significant in that it signals that Republicans have effectively conceded the battle.

Here is the filing:

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Ruth Tam | July 18, 2013