Here’s one you might have missed in the flurry of news yesterday. With the SCOTUS decision in the Windsor case, specifically striking down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), you may have thought that the entire matter was put to rest. But at least in technical terms, you’d have been wrong. There are still other cases making their way through the system which fall under the same umbrella, and the House GOP has been a party to those suits. One in particular, involving benefits for gay military members who are married, was brought to light on Thursday with a quiet announcement from the House Republican leadership.
House Republican leaders announced in a court filing Thursday that they will not defend remaining statutes similar to the Defense of Marriage Act that ban recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages…
“[T]he House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that statute,” lawyers for the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), controlled by House Republicans, wrote about veterans’ benefits statutes that similarly ban recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages…
In addition to challenging DOMA, the plaintiffs — led by Maj. Shannon McLaughlin, a judge advocate general in Massachusetts Army National Guard, and her wife, Casey — challenge two statutes in Title 38 of the U.S. Code regarding veterans’ benefits that define “spouse” as “a person of the opposite sex.”
The Speaker’s office wasn’t crowing about it, but they weren’t denying it either.
“The document from the legal team speaks for itself,” House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, told BuzzFeed, when asked for comment on the move.
I’ve already seen a few rumblings from some conservatives who feel that they’ve been sold down the river by the House leadership again, but that might be a bit of an unfair rap. There comes a point where you can only remain a punching bag for so long, and the Windsor decision pretty much let the air out of the tires on at least a few specific, related cases. Standing your ground on your principles is admirable, but at some point you have to realize that you’ve not only fired the last arrows in your quiver, but the Supreme Court has crossed the field and broken your bow. This particular fight is over, at least as long as the highest court retains or expands its current profile.
Of course, this only applies – for now – to contested cases at the federal level, particularly as they apply to the military and government employees. There are a number of unanswered questions when it comes down to states’ rights and individual rulings in the parts of the country not sitting inside the beltway. For those answers, there may still be years of battles ahead.