GOP Mounts Defense Of Anti-Gay Marriage Law Earlier this year, the Obama administration said it would no longer defend the law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman — a law the White House believes is unconstitutional. House Republicans said that decision gave them no other choice but to defend the law in court themselves.

Republicans Mount Defense Of Anti-Gay Marriage Law

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NPR's Carrie Johnson reports on the controversy.

CARRIE JOHNSON: Republican leaders in the U.S. House say President Obama's turnaround on the anti-gay marriage law left them with few options. Here's House Speaker John Boehner at a recent news conference.

JOHN BOEHNER: I don't think the House had any choice but to take the position that we were going to defend the work of the Congress. And only the courts are in the position of determining the constitutionality of any bill.

JOHNSON: The change in course has conservatives hopping mad.

TRENT FRANKS: Far from cautious and deferential, the president's decision was a badly opportunistic attempt to free himself from a political dilemma.

JOHNSON: That's Arizona Republican lawmaker Trent Franks at a House hearing last week. He says the White House walked away to please supporters in the gay rights community, who include some of his largest donors.

FRANKS: The president and the administration had a duty to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, but powerful constituencies of the president did not want the president to defend it. And unfortunately politics trumped duty.

JOHNSON: But New York Democratic Jerrold Nadler, a longtime supporter of gay rights, says the Republicans are on the wrong side of history.

JERROLD NADLER: Rather than defending DOMA in court, Congress should be working to repeal it. There is no redeeming moral value to a law whose sole goal is to persecute a group of people for no reason and no benefit to anyone else.

JOHNSON: Carlos Ball, a professor at Rutgers Law School, says that's not fair.

CARLOS BALL: There is no rational reason to impose a huge tax obligation on Edie that is not imposed on other New York widows. And that is just one example of why DOMA is unconstitutional.

JOHNSON: But such qualms were eventually overruled by the attorney general and the president. That upsets Ed Whelan, who worked in the Bush Justice Department.

ED WHELAN: The Obama administration's decision to abandon its defense of DOMA, or more precisely to abandon its charade of pretending to defend DOMA, departs sharply from the Department of Justice's longstanding practice.

JOHNSON: Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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