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Democrats file amicus brief challenging Defense of Marriage Act

November 03, 2011|By Kathleen Hennessey, Washington Bureau
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly media briefing at the Capitol.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly media briefing… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )

House Democrats have filed an amicus brief siding with groups challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, the Clinton-era law denying federal benefits to married, same-sex couples.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and 131 other members signed the brief, which argues that the key section of the law is unconstitutional because it was passed quickly, driven by biases and lacks "a rational relationship to any legitimate federal purpose."

President Obama announced earlier this year that he also believed the law was unconstitutional and his administration would not defend it in some court cases. A legal advisory group in the Republican-led House voted to hire a private firm to defend the law, which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. House Speaker John A. Boehner said he believed it was his constitutional responsibility.

The brief points out that the House group does not have full support from the chamber. It also notes that some of its signees voted for the law, but have changed their views.
The brief seems to chalk the shift up to a greater openness about gay marriages today and blames the law’s passage on "false stereotypes and reflexive bias" common at the time.

"Put simply, DOMA is one of those laws enacted when "times ... blind[ed] us to certain truths," but that "later generations can see ... in fact serve only to oppress."

"DOMA was not constitutional in 1996; it is not constitutional now," the brief reads.

The brief was filed in the consolidated cases of Massachusetts vs. Department of Health and Human Services and Gill vs. Office of Personnel Management.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group "voted to defend the law after the Department of Justice chose to shirk its Constitutional responsibility."

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