By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com December 18 2012 1:38 PM ET
Leaders of 10 large LGBT organizations urged House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican colleagues to stop spending money on the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, an exercise that so far has cost American taxpayers at least $2 million.
The leaders sent a letter Tuesday to Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. House Republican leadership stepped in to defend DOMA from legal challenges last year after the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the 1996 law that prevents the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples.
“Despite the enormous economic challenges our country is facing, the House of Representatives recently decided to increase government spending to defend this discriminatory law – a law that intentionally harms thousands of Americans who are legally married,” reads the letter. “At the same time, voters in three states approved marriage equality and, in Minnesota, rejected writing a marriage ban into their state’s constitution. A strong majority of Americans support marriage for loving, committed same-sex couples – including an increasing number of conservatives. With more states allowing committed same-sex couples to obtain civil marriage licenses, DOMA imposes burdens on hard working, tax paying citizens.”
Last week, it was revealed that House Republicans in September quietly approved a $500,000 increase to the $1.5 million contract with Bancroft, the private Washington, D.C.-based law firm hired to defend the statute. The increase to $2 million marked the second raise in the contract’s cap, which was bumped last year from its original maximum of $500,000 to $1.5 million, according to Roll Call.
The cost of the contract could rise again now that the Supreme Court has decided to hear a challenge to DOMA in the case of Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian widow from New York. In addition to the constitutionality of the law, the court has asked whether the House has standing to defend the statute, a question that could require additional briefing and work from Bancroft.
The letter to House Republicans was signed by HRC President Chad Griffin; Outserve-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund executive director Rea Carey; National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce president and co-founder Justin Nelson; Center for American Progress external affairs vice president Winnie Stachelberg; Immigration Equality executive director Rachel Tiven; CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers executive director Terry Stone; Out & Equal Workplace Advocates executive director Silesse Berry; GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality executive director Hector Vargas; and FORGE, Inc executive director Michael Munson.