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GOP leaders absent from DOMA debate

March 27, 2013|By Michael A. Memoli

WASHINGTON -- A lawyer standing for the House of Representatives argued in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday, but Republicans who lead the chamber were not present for the oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

Their absence was conspicuous, particularly as Democrats now largely oppose the 1996 law banning federal recognition of same-sex unions. House Speaker John A. Boehner announced that the House would seek to defend the law after the White House announced plans to drop its defense in 2011.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended Wednesday’s arguments with two guests, Karen Golinski and Amy Cunninghis, a lesbian couple from San Francisco.

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Spokesmen for both Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the leaders did not select guests to use seats reserved for them at the high court.

Pelosi criticized the Republicans for spending taxpayer money to fund the defense, calling the party out of step with public sentiment.

“I don’t know where they are on the subject,” Pelosi said. “Then again, $3 million dollars speaks very loudly.”

A Boehner spokesman said in a statement that “a law’s constitutionality is determined by the courts – not by the Department of Justice.  As long as the Obama administration refuses to exercise its responsibility, we will.”

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement represented Congress in the arguments, saying DOMA was passed to set a “uniform” definition of marriage, adding that the government “has a powerful interest in uniformity.”

FULL COVERAGE: Battle over gay marriage

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Michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli

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