House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced on Friday that the House will take action to defend the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman in court.
He said he will convene a meeting of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to start the process of backing the Defense of Marriage Act, which President Obama has chosen not to defend anymore.
"The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts – not by the president unilaterally – and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”
Boehner's statement comes a week after the Obama administration announced that they will no longer assert the constitutionality of DOMA in court.
Conservatives have called the move a flagrant disregard for his duty to defend federal law. They also criticized the administration for bad timing.
"It is regrettable that the Obama Administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy," Boehner said Friday.
DOMA was enacted by a bipartisan vote in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Along with defining marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, it also provides that states need not recognize same-sex marriages from another state.
While on the campaign trail as the Democratic presidential nominee, Obama asserted that he would not support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman "because historically we have not defined marriage in our constitution. It has been a matter of state law."
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the most influential evangelicals in the country, has pointed out that DOMA does exactly what Obama espoused – leave the decision of marriage to the states.
Up until now, the Department of Justice defended DOMA in lawsuits challenging its constitutionality since taking office two years ago. But the Alliance Defense Fund says the defense filings by the Obama administration have been deficient and have actually "undermined rather than defended DOMA."
The Obama administration will continue to enforce the federal marriage law, but will no longer defend its constitutionality in court.
Members of Congress were informed that those who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.