Steinhauer Overdoses on 'Conservatives' in DOMA Debate, Finds No Liberals
House Republicans quietly moved Friday to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages, saying they would step in to argue for the measure's constitutionality after the Obama administration's decision to stop defending it.
Republican leaders had the option of inserting themselves in the case by introducing a resolution on the House floor and allowing members to speak out on the issue. Instead they released a statement of their intent on a Friday afternoon when the House was out of session.
By choosing that route, Republican leaders illuminated a central problem they face in the 112th Congress: how to reflect the priorities of traditional social conservatives when much of the party's energy is focused on the federal budget and the national debt, the animating passions of the freshman class of lawmakers.
House Speaker John Boehner announced convene a congressional group to defend the law, and out flowed the "conservative" labeling.
By doing so, Mr. Boehner fulfilled a promise to the more conservative members of his caucus, who care deeply about the law, by stepping in to defend it. But he stopped short of creating the appearance of House members distracted from their spending fight by a battle over gay marriage.
"My personal preference would have been a resolution on the House floor," said Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis for American Family Association, a conservative Christian organization in Tupelo, Miss. "But the political landscape in 1995 meant that the law passed overwhelmingly," he said. "You may not have the same overwhelming majority on this resolution, so the optics may not be optimum."
Support for action by the House to defend the marriage statute came from some conservative groups and lawmakers. But many freshmen in the Republican caucus were silent on the matter.
Representative Raúl Labrador, a conservative freshman from Idaho, has not mentioned the issue, said Phil Hardy, his spokesman. "My boss is all about the budgets and finding the waste," Mr. Hardy said in an e-mail.
While Steinhauer found loads of conservative groups and politicos, she found no "liberals" on the other side - not even former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The minority leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, said in a statement that "I oppose Speaker Boehner's effort to put the House in the position of defending this indefensible statute."
The move drew rebukes from gay rights groups and some Democrats....