GOP mum on Supreme Court's DOMA case

House Republicans have been "radio silent" on the court's decision to hear one of the cases


Jillian Rayfield
December 11, 2012 7:05PM (UTC)

Though House Republicans are in charge of defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court, so far they've kept quiet about the Supreme Court's decision to hear a case challenging the law.

Politico reports:

In June, the House of Representatives told the Supreme Court that the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act “is an issue of great national importance” that urgently requires the justices’ attention. The 1996 law denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples.

But when the court agreed on Friday to hear one of the DOMA cases early next year, the Republican leadership had nothing to say about it.

Advocates on both sides of the issue said they’d seen no statements from Republican lawmakers about the court’s decision to take on DOMA and an even more provocative dispute regarding a ban California voters approved on same-sex marriage.

“I’m personally grateful to Speaker Boehner for being willing to defend the law, but it’s clear GOP elites don’t want to talk about it and want to keep it as quiet as possible,” Maggie Gallagher, a founder of the National Organization for Marriage, said. “That’s so obvious, I don’t see any point in pretending otherwise.”

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Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council agreed, telling Politico that there's been "just radio silence" from the GOP in public. “I was disappointed there wasn’t more from the Hill.”

Led by Republicans, the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) took over defending the law, which bars same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits, after the Obama administration said it would stop defending it in February 2011. So far, the House has allotted $2 million for DOMA's defense -- led by attorney Paul Clement -- over Democrats' objections. According to numbers released in October, almost $1.5 million had been spent as of then.

Though the GOP is keeping quiet on the decision, gay marriage groups are looking at the Supreme Court as the next big fight for marriage equality. Molly Ball writes in the Atlantic that gay marriage groups who successfully campaigned to legalize gay marriage through ballot measures during the election are now turning their attention to the Court. Evan Wolfson, the head of the pro-marriage equality group Freedom to Marry, says that fundamentally, minority rights should not be voted on by the majority.

From the Atlantic:

Instead, the group is focused on the upcoming Supreme Court cases on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8. It is lobbying Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and considering legislative campaigns in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island -- and, now that voters there have declined to ban gay marriage, Minnesota.

As happy as Wolfson is that voters have ratified gay marriage, he contends that no group should have to have its rights voted on by its fellow citizens. "It's very hard for a minority to turn to the majority and say, 'Please vote to end discrimination,'" he said. "If it were that simple, we wouldn't need courts or a Constitution. The American idea is that certain protections can't be voted away, and the majority must accord equal terms to the minority." Until that happens, the fight continues.

Wolfson wrote in an Op-Ed for the New York Times: "If we do our part over the next months, building on the irrefutable momentum of 2011 and 2012, we can give the justices confidence that when they stand on the right side of history, their rulings will not only stand the test of time, but be true to where the American people already are."


Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group Doma Gay Marriage House Republicans Proposition 8 Supreme Court

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