WASHINGTON -- House Democrats may not be in the majority, but they took action on Thursday to make it clear they don't agree with the decision by House GOP leaders to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), more than 130 Democratic lawmakers filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit to rebut the Republican defense that the federal ban on gay marriage is constitutional.
The House has been defending DOMA in court since the spring, when the Obama administration concluded that Section 3 of the law is unconstitutional and announced it would no longer defend it on those grounds. Section 3 prevents the federal government from recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages.
The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group in March voted 3-2, with Pelosi and Hoyer voting "no," to hire private counsel to defend DOMA in court, at a cost of $1.5 million in taxpayer money. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Va.) were the "yes" votes.
All co-signers of the amicus brief "wish to make clear that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group ('BLAG'), which has intervened in this case to defend Section 3’s constitutionality, does not speak for a unanimous House on this issue," reads the document. "While Speaker Boehner has the authority to direct the defense of DOMA by virtue of the divided 3-2 vote of the BLAG, many Members believe that Section 3 of DOMA violates the Constitution and should be struck down."
Their 42-page brief makes the case that Republicans' legal defense of DOMA fails on two counts: on the point that gay people have enough "political power" to influence Congress to repeal DOMA without court intervention, and on the point that DOMA doesn't undermine state-sanctioned gay marriages.
Other Democrats who signed the brief include House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) and Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), John Conyers (Mich.), Barney Frank (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), who is also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Their filing is on the consolidated case of Massachusetts v. Dept. of Health and Human Services and Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. The case reached the 1st Circuit after a federal district court ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
Pelosi and other sponsors of the brief "intend to participate in each of the cases where the BLAG has intervened as each case reaches the relevant federal court of appeals," reads a press release from Pelosi's office.