Queer Voices

Nancy Pelosi And House Democrats File Brief Supporting DOMA Repeal In California Court

Led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), 132 House Democrats filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

In the brief, which was filed in the case of Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the members of Congress argued that DOMA "lacks a rational relationship to any legitimate federal purpose and accordingly is unconstitutional." Karen Golinski, a federal employee who is married to another woman, launched the suit to force the federal government to give her spouse the same benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.

House Democrats had previously filed a similar brief in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled DOMA unconstitutional in May.

The paper also swiped at House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has used the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to defend DOMA from legal challenges. After the Obama administration announced last February that it would no longer back DOMA in court, Boehner and Republican leaders raised large sums of money to continue defending the law.

In addition to BLAG, a group of ten Republican Senators also filed their own brief in June asking the court to uphold DOMA.

The Democrats wrote that they "wish to make clear that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (“BLAG”), does not speak for a unanimous House on this issue. While Speaker Boehner directed the defense of DOMA by virtue of the divided 3-2 vote of the BLAG, many Members believe that Section 3 of DOMA violates the Constitution and should be struck down."

But the Democrats also remain divided on the issue. While a large majority of House Democrats, including the full party leadership, joined Pelosi in the brief, the remaining 60 House Democrats declined to participate in what was billed as the "the Democratic Members' brief."

Yet according to BuzzFeed, twenty of the Democrats who did not sign the brief have nevertheless cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, a proposed bill to repeal DOMA. The high-profile brief carries greater political risk than the bill, which has advanced to the Senate floor but has little prospect of passing in the GOP-led House.

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