Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sent the following letter to Speaker John Boehner today on the legal defense of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by the House General Counsel. This week, the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) voted, along party lines, to direct the House General Counsel to initiate defense of the statute using outside lawyers. In the letter, Pelosi reiterated her opposition to DOMA on constitutional grounds and expressed concerns about the cost and oversight of the litigation as it proceeds through the courts.
The full text of the letter is below.
March 11, 2011
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) voted this week by a 3-2 margin to direct the House General Counsel to initiate a legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As you know, the Democratic members of the BLAG voted against directing the House Counsel to initiate the costly defense of a statute which many believe to be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause.
While respecting the role of the BLAG to make such decisions, I disagree in this circumstance because of the number of cases, at least 10. There are numerous parties who will continue to litigate these ongoing cases regardless of the involvement of the House. No institutional purpose is served by having the House of Representatives intervene in this litigation which will consume 18 months or longer. As we noted, the constitutionality of this statute will be determined by the Courts, regardless of whether the House chooses to intervene.
The resolution passed by the BLAG also directs the House General Counsel to hire private lawyers rather than utilize his own office to represent the House. The General Counsel indicated that he lacked the personnel and the budget to absorb those substantial litigation duties. It is important that the House receive an estimate of the cost to taxpayers for engaging private lawyers to intervene in the pending DOMA cases. It is also important that the House know whether the BLAG, the General Counsel, or a Committee of the House have the responsibility to monitor the actions of the outside lawyers and their fees.
The American people want Congress to be working on the creation of jobs and ensuring the continued progress of our economic recovery rather than involving itself unnecessarily in such costly and divisive litigation.
Thank you for your responses to these questions concerning the cost and oversight of the litigation as it proceeds through the courts.