via PBG Annual Calendar.
via PBG Annual Calendar.
Republican lawmakers are threatening to put the nation’s financial health at risk over a ritual vote to raise the debt ceiling, but they don’t actually object to throwing away money. Case in point: they seem to relish spending taxpayer dollars on the plainly unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.
The 1996 law prohibits federal recognition of marriages between people of the same sex. It was signed – to his shame – by President Bill Clinton, and for years the government defended DOMA in court against lawsuits. But in 2011 President Obama instructed the Justice Department to relent – after Justice concluded that the law was not constitutional.
Cue the budget-conscious Republicans on Capitol Hill, who authorized the spending of up to $2.75 million in public funds to hire lawyers to defend DOMA on their behalf. Apparently, that was not a big enough check, so on Jan. 4, the House Republicans raised the fee ceiling to $3 million.
On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner protesting the spending, which the G.O.P. leadership somehow forgot to mention at any of the dozens of press conferences they’ve held to preach the gospel of fiscal responsibility.
“This clandestine commitment of taxpayer funds is highly irregular and objectionable, and it must end now,” they wrote, pointing out that defending DOMA is futile since it violates Constitutional guarantees of equal protection.
The Defense of Marriage Act is perhaps the last example of officially sanctioned discrimination in the United States. Until Congress repeals it or the Supreme Court strikes it down, a select group of Americans will be denied the benefits and recognition provided to all other married Americans, and state laws that allow gay unions will have only limited effect
Two top House Democrats are criticizing House Republicans for spending additional taxpayer funds to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
On Jan. 4, Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., the new chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, approved a contract with the law firm Bancroft PLLC increasing the agreed-upon ceiling on fees for defense of the law from $2 million to $3 million.
In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner Tuesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said they should have been consulted before the agreement was signed.
Both Democratic lawmakers are members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which decides how the House acts in court. BLAG is comprised of three members of the majority party leadership in the House and two members of the minority party leadership.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday scheduled a March 26 hearing on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The hearing will come one day before the high court hears a challenge to the federal government’s denial of benefits to legally married gay and lesbian couples under a law known as the Defense of Marriage Act.
Justices will question lawyers for each side at hearings scheduled to last an hour each.
Prop. 8 was approved by the voters in November 2008, overturning a May 2008 state Supreme Court ruling that recognized a right to same-sex marriage under the California Constitution.
A federal appeals court declared Prop. 8 unconstitutional in February 2012, saying the measure had withdrawn rights from a historically persecuted minority. The ruling stopped short of deciding whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, but the Supreme Court could address that issue in its ruling, due by the end of June
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to tackle gay marriage in a matter of months, but legislative action this week in Rhode Island and Illinois shows that supporters aren’t in wait-and-see mode.
Buoyed by ballot victories in four states in November, they’re now on the offensive in two more; wins would mean that more than 20 percent of Americans live in places that have approved same-sex marriage.
Opponents are pushing back hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, even as they express confidence that the nation’s high court will rule in their favor when it weighs in on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
“Everyone is looking at the Supreme Court. What happens then defines a lot of more about what happens next in the fight,” said Bill Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.”
“We’re gonna win that and then there’s going to be a state-by-state fight, and our record on that is amazing.”
The scope of any Supreme Court decision is far from clear. They could rule that every American is entitled to the right to same-sex marriage or they could allow states to keep bans on gay marriage or they could do something in between.
In the meantime, gay-marriage advocates are pressing the issue at the state level. In addition to Rhode Island and Illinois, lawmakers in Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island reportedly could consider the issue later this year.