Republican leaders in the U.S. House spent a good deal of time and money trying to defend the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court, but they don’t plan to get involved in the marriage equality cases the court will consider this year, House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday.
“I don’t expect that we’re going to weigh in on this,” Boehner said at a news conference in response to a question from the Washington Blade. “The court will make its decision and that’s why they’re there, to be the highest court in the land.”
The court will hear marriage cases out of Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Boehner’s home state of Ohio. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit last year upheld those states’ bans on same-sex marriage, becoming the first federal appellate to rule in favor of such bans. The Supreme Court agreed in January to hear the cases, but oral arguments have yet to be scheduled.
In 2011, after the Obama administration declined to defend DOMA in court, Congress’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, drawn from both the House and Senate with a 3-2 Republican majority, hired a private attorney, Paul Clement, to defend the law at a cost of more than $2 million overall. Despite Clement’s efforts, the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key section of DOMA, clearing the way for the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.
Some LGBT activists welcomed Boehner’s announcement. It is a “commendable decision” and represents “a real step forward” by House Republicans, Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, told the Blade.
“Their evolution reflects the momentum for the freedom to marry nationwide, as well as the quiet hope of most Republican officials and operatives that the Supreme Court will rule in our favor and bring the country to national resolution, thereby rescuing them from their prior stance against the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “They know their past pandering to part of their base is way out of step not only with a majority of the American people and independents, but with Republicans under 50 and even with young evangelicals.”
Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, added that Boehner’s remarks were “definitely encouraging,” the Blade reports.
Democrats in the House and Senate don’t intend to stay out of the case; they plan to file a friend of the court brief in support of marriage equality, the Blade notes, as they did in the DOMA case. The Obama administration also plans to file such a brief.