Speaker launches effort to defend gay marriage ban

by
March 5, 2011

By LAURIE KELLMAN

WASHINGTON (AP) – House Speaker John Boehner said Friday the House may go to court to defend the federal law against gay marriage, which President Barack Obama’s administration has concluded is unconstitutional.

Boehner said he would convene a group of bipartisan congressional leaders that has the authority to instruct the House counsel to represent the chamber in court. The panel would include Boehner, 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,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “This action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”

The Obama administration last month announced it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the federal law that bans recognition of gay marriage.Attorney General Eric Holder said the section of the 1996 law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. Nonetheless, he said the Justice Department would continue to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, and it remains in effect.

Boehner said he was convening the panel of House leaders “for the purpose of initiating action by the House to defend this law.” But there was no immediate indication of specifically what action it would direct or when the group would meet.

Democrats on the panel were unlikely to support any defense of the law. Pelosi has lauded Obama’s decision to stop defending it as a “victory for civil rights, fairness and equality.”

On Friday, she criticized the move as a costly burden on House staff.

“This is nothing more than a distraction from our most pressing challenges” such as creating jobs and reducing the federal deficit, she said.

The White House declined to comment on Boehner’s announcement.

The law’s supporters lauded the new House speaker, saying constitutionality should be decided by the courts and not by the president.

“With the House intervening, we will finally get lawyers in that courtroom who are trying to win this” issue, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

The law’s opponents said Boehner’s action amounted to pandering to the GOP’s conservative base at the expense of gays and lesbians.

House Republicans have “now shown they’re more interested in scoring cheap political points on the backs of same-sex couples than tackling real problems,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

To read more, visit: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9LOSBQG0&show_article=1

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