WASHINGTON, D.C., March 8, 2011 ( – Congressional leaders have ordered the formation of a new legal group to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), now that U.S. President Barack Obama refuses to defend the law in federal court.


House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Friday that he is convening a five-member House panel called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which can then instruct the House’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to defend DOMA.

The move was in response to Obama’s recent instruction to the Justice Department to drop the defense of the law, which states that in federal law “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

The bipartisan panel is comprised of Speaker Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

“The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally — and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our constitution,” stated Boehner.

Although House rules give Boehner the authority to instruct the OGC to give Congress legal assistance, the formation of the panel offers the Speaker an opportunity to show that the defense of DOMA is a bipartisan issue.

The panel is expected to meet this week.

However, Minority Leader Pelosi accused Boehner and the GOP of placing themselves “squarely on the wrong side of history and progress” by defending DOMA.

Pelosi, who voted last week against a two-week continuing resolution with a meager $4 billion in budget cuts, railed against Boehner’s decision to have the OGC defend DOMA, saying “given the complexity of these cases and the number of courts involved, it is likely this will cost the House hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.”

The annual federal deficit is predicted to reach $1.6 trillion in 2011. House Republicans have proposed $61 billion in cuts in a CR to fund the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2011, including cuts to Planned Parenthood, Title X family planning, and other spending programs.

Pro-family leaders praised Boehner’s leadership.

“Marriage and the family are vital cornerstones of society,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee.

“I thank Speaker Boehner for working to ensure that marriage gets a robust defense against lawsuits seeking to redefine it,” said Jordan. “DOMA deserves the same defense in court as the rest of our laws.  If President Obama refuses to do his job and defend the law, the House will do it for him.”

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), said Boehner’s decision was “a great win for marriage, for democracy and for our Constitutional processes” and predicted Obama’s decision was “going to backfire tactically.” 

“With the House intervening, we will finally get lawyers in that courtroom who are trying to win this case – and we are confident that in the end DOMA will be upheld by the Supreme Court,” said Brown.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC) also expressed optimism that DOMA “will now receive a vigorous legal defense.” He stressed that Obama’s decision to abandon DOMA jeopardizes 29 state marriage amendments and the statutes of another 12 states that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“We urge the federal courts to recognize these legitimate governmental interests, preserve the traditional understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and safeguard the right of the people to enact legislation defining the public institution of marriage,” said Perkins.


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