The House of Representatives has hired a prominent attorney, Paul Clement, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) against pending constitutional challenges. Clement is a former solicitor general, who is also currently representing a group of states in a lawsuit against the health care reform recently passed by Congress. House Republicans have needed legal assistance to defend DOMA since President Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop defending it on February 23rd. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the president concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of scrutiny and DOMA “fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.”

House Speaker John Boehner claims that without the assistance of the Justice Department, he was forced to act unilaterally. Boehner has also argued that the DOJ should pay for the fees charged by Clement’s firm, which will cost the House up to $520 per hour. Boehner stated, “Obviously, DOJ’s decision results in DOJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA. It is my intent that those funds be diverted to the House for reimbursement of any costs incurred by and associated with the House, and not DOJ, defending DOMA.” Such a reimbursement is unlikely, however, because it would require approval by the democratically-controlled Senate. Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have criticized the defense of DOMA as a waste of taxpayer money. (Read More).

At the same time that Congress is obtaining legal assistance to defend DOMA, a CNN opinion poll indicates that a majority of Americans now support gay marriage. A slim 51% majority of those polled indicated that they believed same-sex marriages should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. This poll represents a turning point, as the same poll conducted in previous years found that a majority of Americans believed gay marriages should not be legally recognized. An ongoing Washington Post – ABC News poll also recently found that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage for the first time.

Photo Credit: Above the Law