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Entries in Defense of Marriage Act (14)

Thursday
Mar212013

Pelosi, Boehner Wrestle Over Shift in Gay Marriage Support

Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg(WASHINGTON) -- With the Supreme Court set to hear arguments on same-sex marriage next week, two more prominent lawmakers took time to express their unwavering views on the issue.

When asked about his defense of the Defense of Marriage Act given that public opinion has shifted to support marriage equality, House Speaker John Boehner said that while his personal belief is that marriage should strictly be between a man and woman, it should be up to the justices to decide whether the act should be upheld as constitutional.

“In our system of government, the administration doesn’t get to decide what’s constitutional. The Supreme Court does,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Our financing the lawsuit was to make sure that the proper forum was used to make sure that we know what’s constitutional and what isn’t.”

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll,  indicates that the shift in public support for gay marriage is at an all-time high, with 58 percent of Americans now supporting marriage equality.  Just 36 percent of those polled believe same-sex marriage should be illegal.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments against the Defense of Marriage Act as well as California’s Proposition 8 when it convenes next week.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a Capitol news conference today that gay marriage was an issue “near and dear” to her heart and that she predicted the law would be ruled unconstitutional.

Asked about a bill that is moving through the Democratic-controlled New Jersey state legislature that aims to ban gay conversion therapy, a controversial practice in some states where homosexual minors are counseled to believe they are straight, Pelosi discounted the effectiveness of the treatment.

“I believe in science, and I believe in evidence, and I don’t think there’s any scientific evidence that says that we should have such a public policy that tries to do what you describe,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “But I do know it’s disrespectful and discriminatory, and therefore I would oppose the conversion therapy and support the bill, as we have in California.” Though a bill to ban gay conversion therapy was passed in California late last year, it has currently been placed on hold by a federal appeals court and awaits further action.

In contrast to Boehner, fellow Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, in an op-ed last week, became the second-sitting GOP senator to endorse gay marriage.

While the topic has taken on new life on Capitol Hill in the wake of Portman’s reversal, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, also came out in support of gay marriage in an ad for the Human Rights Campaign earlier this week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb242013

White House Brief Foreshadows Supreme Court Arguments on Gay Marriage

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has asked the Supreme Court to strike down a main provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, but in the legal paper filed with the judiciary it may have signaled a wider push for same-sex marriage as a constitutional right on the horizon.

The Justice Department issued an amicus brief Friday urging the court to repeal Section 3 of DOMA when it hears a challenge to the act late next month. The portion bars the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages for health benefits, income tax purposes, and other issues.`

In 2011, President Obama announced the executive branch would cease upholding the 1996 law, although it remained on the books. Given that the Obama administration has been named a party to the case, the filing with the court does not come as a surprise, yet the equal protection issues covered in United States v. Windsor are relatively narrow in scope.

Instead, court watchers have been waiting to see whether the president would weigh in on a separate case involving gay marriage: California’s Proposition 8. The administration has until next week to decide whether to join other parties in challenging the ballot-approved state law, later overturned, that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Friday’s brief could serve as hat-tip that the Justice Department is preparing for such a move.

Any ruling regarding Prop 8 would have sweeping ramifications over a much broader issue than DOMA: Whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees a fundamental right to gay marriage.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. is not required to file a so-called “friend of the court” brief in that, but sources say the administration is considering the possibility at the highest levels.

In an interview Wednesday with San Francisco’s ABC station, KGO-TV, Obama said his administration had yet to reach a decision.

“I have to make sure I’m not interjecting myself too much into this process, particularly when we’re not party to the case,” he told KGO-TV. “I can tell you, though, that obviously my personal view is that I think that same-sex couples should have the same rights and be treated like everybody else.”

Historically his administration has left such decisions to the states; the administration has not previously offered an official statement on Prop 8 because the federal government was not directly affected by it.

Although the California case and DOMA do not directly intertwine Friday’s brief does offer a window into the language likely to be employed by the Justice Department in Prop 8, should it become involved. The brief can be found at the well-established SCOTUSblog.com.

“Gay and lesbian people are a minority group with limited political power,” reads the administration statement. “Although some of the harshest and most overt forms of discrimination against gay and lesbian people have receded, that progress has hardly been uniform (either temporally or geographically), and has in significant respects been the result of judicial enforcement of the Constitution, not political action.”

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has also filed a brief urging that the law be upheld, arguing gay-rights issues would be better left to the democratic process.

“Gays and lesbians are one of the most influential, best-connected, best-funded, and best-organized interest groups in modern politics, and have attained more legislative victories, political power, and popular favor in less time than virtually any other group in American history,” it says.

The House named itself a party to the case after the executive branch announced its decision to abandon the legislation.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May312012

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional by Federal Appeals Court

Photos.com/Thinkstock(BOSTON) – A federal appeals court in Boston has ruled unconstitutional a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The appeals court ruled that the law discriminates against marriage of same-sex couples -- saying that it keeps them from getting federal benefits.

The court left untouched the power of states to enact same-sex marriage laws and to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages done in other states.

The suit was brought by legally wed gay couples in Massachusetts, seeking the more than 1,000 benefits due to married couples under federal law. They include the right to file a joint tax return, and, for government workers, to have their spouses receive federal insurance benefits.

The appeals court says only the Supreme Court can eventually decide the issue. And it puts the ruling on hold to allow Supreme Court justices to consider the case.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov112011

Defense of Marriage Act Repeal Takes a Step Forward in the Senate

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats’ efforts to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) took a procedural step forward Thursday, but final passage into law faces a very uphill climb.

By a party-line vote of 10-8, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the repeal of DOMA, the Clinton administration law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, out of committee by voting for the Respect for Marriage Act bill.

“So we begin with a single step on a march to equality,” committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said at a news conference following the vote.  “Marriage is a matter for the states to determine -- whether it’s my state or any other state.  And those Americans who are lawfully married should have the same protection under federal laws that my wife and I enjoy.”

While noting disappointment at not having a single Republican vote in the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., hailed the procedural step.

“DOMA is discriminatory,” Feinstein said.  “DOMA prevents people legally married in a state to get the same rights and benefits -- federal rights and benefits that a heterosexual couple would get.  So it treats one class differently from another class.”

The bill’s next step is to be sent to the full Senate for consideration.  It’s unclear when, if at all, the majority leader will take up the bill in front of the full Senate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep302011

Gay Rights Group Seeks Obama Role in State Marriage Fights

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Among the core constituencies President Obama has been courting in recent weeks, few have as many reasons to root for his re-election as gays and lesbians.

Obama helped pass a federal hate crimes law, repealed "don’t ask don’t tell," ended a ban on HIV-positive foreign travelers to the U.S., and ensured hospital visitation rights for gay couples, among other things. All are accomplishments he will likely tout in a speech to the LGBT community in Washington Saturday night.

But with a coming election in which Obama’s name will appear on the ballot alongside the same-sex marriage question in at least three battleground states, advocates are now pressing the president to use the spotlight and his campaign’s ground operations to help lobby for their cause.

“One thing that would be incredibly helpful would be for the president and the administration to look out across the electoral landscape next year, understand where it is that we’re engaged in marriage fights -- whether overturning the ban in Oregon, or fighting a ban in Minnesota or North Carolina -- and have something to say about that,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay and lesbian rights group, in an interview with ABC News.

“I think that will be important, particularly in North Carolina, where the legislature just passed a bill that would put a marriage ban on the ballot next year and where the president will find himself for the Democratic National Convention,” he said.

While Obama opposes same-sex marriage and believes it’s an issue that each state should decide for itself, he has also said laws explicitly barring gays from engaging in unions are discriminatory and unconstitutional. Earlier this year, the administration dropped its legal defense of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and Obama has expressed support for a Democratic-sponsored effort to repeal the 1996 law.

Solmonese, who described a close working relationship with Obama and the administration, says he is not particularly troubled by the president’s own stance on gay marriage, because it’s not clear Obama’s personal endorsement would affect the debate.

But, he said, Obama’s tendency to support marriage equality in at least in some corners of the law is telling.

“He came into office opposed to [gay] marriage, and an administration that was defending the DOMA. He now says he’s ‘evolving’ on marriage, and he and the administration have determined that DOMA is unconstitutional and not worthy of defense. And that is light-years from where any president prior to him has ever been,” Solmonese said. “So where we find ourselves as a community is kind of reading between the lines and making of his statements what we will and interpreting them as each of us might.”

Solmonese said that gays and lesbians, perhaps more than any other members of Obama’s base, have a “great deal of enthusiasm” for the president, realizing that the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates are all “fairly dangerous."

“At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is getting this guy re-elected,” Solmonese said of Obama. “Because one thing that’s really clear is where he stands and where the rest of the field stands.”

When Obama speaks at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala in Washington, D.C., Saturday night, it will be his second address to the advocacy group since he took  office.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul202011

Senate Holds Landmark Hearing on Repealing DOMA

BananaStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate has held the first-ever hearing on the Respect of Marriage Act, which would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and extend to legally married same-sex couples the same benefits and protections provided to heterosexual married couples.

“I’m concerned that DOMA has served to create a tier of second-class families in states like Vermont.  This runs counter to the values upon which America is founded, to the proud tradition we have in this country of moving toward a more inclusive society,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chmn. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said.

Testifying before the Senate Committee, Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, equated DOMA to racism and his personal experiences with discrimination.

“As a child, I tasted the bitter fruits of racism and discrimination, and I did not like it.  And in 1996, when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, the taste of that old bitter fruit filled my mouth once again,” Lewis said.  “The Defense of Marriage Act is a stain on our democracy.  We must do away with this unjust, discriminatory law once and for all. It reminds me of another dark time in our nation's history, in many years when states passed laws banning blacks and whites from marrying. We look back on that time now with disbelief.  And one day we will look back on this period with that same sense of disbelief.”

But Republicans pounced on the Respect for Marriage Act and defended the constitutionality of DOMA. “Traditional marriage is a sacred institution and serves as the cornerstone of our society. We cannot afford to devalue it with legislation like S. 598, and we must oppose any effort that would diminish the definition of marriage,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said. “The other side argues that you can't choose who you love and that a union between two men or two women is equal to that of one man and one woman.  But these are the same arguments that could be used to promote marriage between fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, or even polygamist relationships.”

President Obama supports the repeal of DOMA. “The president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people -- our families, friends and neighbors,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at Tuesday’s press briefing.

“He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Senator Feinstein and Congressman Nadler, which would take DOMA off the books once and for all," said Carney. "This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr272011

Attorney General Defends DOMA Defense Lawyer

Chris Hondros/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder knows he won't get any praise from Republican quarters for supporting an attorney who quit his firm because of its decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

But that's the way the political ball bounces in Washington.

Holder went on record Tuesday by saying that Paul Clement, a former solicitor general in the second Bush White House, shouldn't be criticized for leaving King & Spalding, which came under pressure from gay and lesbian groups.

Clement has since joined a smaller Washington law firm to carry out the defense of DOMA, the 1996 federal law that prohibits same-sex marriages.  Earlier this year, President Obama said that the Justice Department will no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in court.

Last week, House Republicans hired King & Spalding, with Clement as its lead attorney, to defend DOMA.  However, the backlash from gay activists caused the firm to rethink its decision and by Monday, it withdrew from the case.

Holder maintained that the criticism Clement received for representing the House was "very misplaced," adding that the attorney was "doing that which lawyers do."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr252011

DOMA Defense Triggers Legal Turmoil

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images (file)(WASHINGTON) -- The former solicitor general for President George W. Bush who was tapped by House Republicans to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act in court abruptly resigned from one of the nation's top law firms Monday after it refused to provide legal services in support of the law.

Paul Clement, a partner at the law firm King & Spalding, was appointed by House Speaker John Boehner last week to step in for Justice Department lawyers who withdrew from several pending cases involving DOMA in February. The law defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Attorney General Eric Holder said at the time that the Obama administration concluded that laws treating gays and lesbians differently deserve a heightened form of legal scrutiny, which, in turn, could result in finding the law unconstitutional.

House Republicans have insisted only the judges should decide on the law's constitutionality, and in a contract with King & Spalding, agreed to pay $520 per hour for up to $500,000 total for Clement and the firm's legal services to defend the statute in court.

But Monday, the firm made an about face, unexpectedly announcing that it had withdrawn from representing the cases. Robert D. Hays Jr., the firm's chairman, said in a statement that the methods used for vetting the representation were "inadequate."

Gay and lesbian rights groups, which had mounted intense pressure on the firm for accepting the case, celebrated the reversal. "King & Spalding has rightly chosen to put principle above politics in dropping its involvement in the defense of this discriminatory and patently unconstitutional law," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "We are pleased to see the firm has decided to stand on the right side of history and remain true to its core values."

Clement later resigned and blasted Hays' decision in a letter, saying the firm had backed down because its client's legal position was unpopular. He vowed to continue a legal defense of DOMA. Clement said that he "recognized from the outset" that the statute implicates sensitive issues "on both sides" but that "having undertaken the representation, I believe there is no honorable course for me but to complete it."

Clement said he would move to the Bancroft firm and continue in his role as private counsel on behalf of the U.S. House.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr192011

Boehner's Marriage Act Defense: $520/Hour

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Harvard-educated private attorney tapped by House Republicans to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court will cost taxpayers $520 per hour, according to a copy of the legal services contract reviewed by ABC News.

House Speaker John Boehner appointed Paul D. Clement, former Solicitor General for George W. Bush, to the job Monday, nearly two months after the Justice Department said its lawyers would no longer defend DOMA in court.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department concluded that laws treating gays and lesbians differently deserve a heightened form of legal scrutiny, which, in turn, would result in finding the law unconstitutional.

Under the arrangement with the U.S. House of Representatives, Clement will now be "principally responsible" for arguing on behalf of the 1996 law in at least 12 pending cases challenging its constitutionality. But a "substantial portion" of the legal work will be done by two of Clement's associates from the law firm King & Spalding, Daryl Joseffer and Jeffrey Bucholtz.

The contract says the government will not spend more than $500,000 total for all legal services performed in defense of the law. But it does not rule out a new contract if the ceiling is reached.

The cost of defending DOMA, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman for federal purposes, has drawn fire from Democrats who say Republicans are spending taxpayer dollars unnecessarily.

But Republicans insist that the Obama administration has created the predicament by not following precedent in defending an established law, whether they support it or not.

Boehner indicated in a letter Monday to Pelosi that he intends to offset the cost of a private counsel with reductions from the Justice Department's budget.

The House and Senate would have to approve any shift in appropriations. In the interim, funding will come from the House Administration Committee, Boehner said in his letter. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr182011

House Republicans Hire Lawyer to Take Defense of Marriage Act Cases

Spike Mafford/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans Monday appointed a private attorney to argue on behalf of the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama administration essentially abandoned two months ago, and vowed to take funds from the Justice Department budget to pay for it.

In February the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the 1996 act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Attorney General Eric Holder said at the time that while the administration had previously defended DOMA in court, it had recently conducted a new examination and found the law was unconstitutional.

"DOMA cannot be constitutionally applied to same-sex couples whose marriages are legally recognized under state law," Holder wrote in a letter to John Boehner.

Facing a deadline in one of the 12 federal cases -- Windsor v. United States -- Boehner Monday named Paul D. Clement, the former solicitor general for George W. Bush, to officially take the lead in mounting a defense of the statute. He initially directed the House General Counsel to manage the case after Justice Department lawyers stepped aside.

"This action by the House will ensure that this law's constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally," Boehner said in a statement last month.

The appointment of Clement, who likely bills thousands of dollars per hour for his services, has sparked debate over who will cover the cost.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters President Obama remains committed to helping Congress defend the law but declined to comment on whether the administration would support the appropriation of taxpayer funds.

Boehner indicated in a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that he intends to offset the cost of a private counsel with reductions from the Justice Department's budget. He did not provide an estimate for how much should be diverted to cover the costs.

"I am requesting that you disclose the cost of hiring outside counsel for the 12 cases where DOMA is being challenged," Pelosi responded in a letter. "I would like to know when the contract with Mr. Clement was signed, and why a copy was not provided to Democrats on the Committee. The House of Representatives need not enter into this lengthy and costly litigation."

Clement is expected to waste no time in his new role, filing briefs in federal court as early as Monday in support of the law.

Social conservatives praised the selection of Clement and the renewed defense of DOMA.

Americans divide about evenly on gay marriage, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Forty-seven percent said it should be legal, while 50 percent said it should be illegal, with strong opinions on both sides. As recently as 2006, 36 percent favored legalizing same-sex marriage with 58 percent opposed.

Gay civil unions, with "the legal rights of married couples in areas such as health insurance, inheritance and pension coverage," are less controversial -- 66 percent in favor, according to the latest poll, a new high by a substantial margin.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 







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