The Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are no longer planning to defend traditional marriage at the federal level.
By their own admission in a case challenging the definition of “spouse” as applied to veterans’ benefits, lawyers for the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG, controlled by House Republicans, announced Thursday they will “no longer defend” the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, in federal court.
Documents hosted by BuzzFeed in the case of McLaughlin v. Panetta reveal GOP House attorneys essentially believe the Supreme Court has settled the issue.
“The Windsor decision necessarily resolves the issue of DOMA Section 3’s constitutionality in this case,” BLAG attorneys wrote. “While the question of whether 38 U.S.C. § 101(3), (31) is constitutional remains open, the House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that statute.
“Accordingly,” the lawyers filed, “the House now seeks leave to withdraw as a party defendant.”
The Windsor case refers to last month’s ruling in which the Supreme Court by 5-4 vote held Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause.
The Obama administration had already ceased to defend DOMA in court, yet until Thursday, House leadership had kept up the fight.
BLAG attorneys were responding to a request – issued the day after the Windsor ruling – from the judge in the McLaughlin case, asking for “any reasons why judgment should not enter for plaintiffs in this case.” The House attorneys, in their withdrawal from the case, declined.
“The document from the legal team speaks for itself,” House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, told BuzzFeed, when asked for comment on the move.
The spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., however, pushed for additional, immediate action.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling is clear. Rather than trying to delay justice for particular married gay and lesbian couples and their families, Speaker Boehner should immediately file motions to end House Republicans’ involvement in the remaining cases and stop spending taxpayer dollars to defend unconstitutional discrimination,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told BuzzFeed.
The Republican leadership’s decision does not exactly come unexpected. In the wake of the Windsor ruling, House Republicans had already hinted their eagerness to shift the fight to the state level.
“While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances,” Boehner said of the Windsor case in a statement. “A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., similarly told Politico he’s “disappointed in this decision, and the marriage debate will continue in the states.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No 2. Senate Republican, added, “Like it or not, the Supreme Court is the final word on constitutional matters.”
“It sounds to me that that battle will be moving to the states,” Cornyn said. “The issue is not going away, and there are going to be havens of traditional values like Texas where I don’t think the law is going to be changed.”