Former Bush lawyer hired to defend gay marriage ban
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has hired Paul Clement, the former solicitor general during George W. Bush’s presidency, to pick up the ball and defend the law that defined marriage as between a man and woman.
The Obama administration decided in February to drop its defense of the 15-year-old law, which was hailed by gay rights advocates but widely panned by many senior Republicans infuriated that the Justice Department would no longer defend the law in court and called it a political move.
In one case in Boston, a federal judge struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act banning gay marriages as unconstitutional.
But the Obama administration had initially appealed those rulings, saying it typically defends lawyers on the books. Now the Justice Department says it agreed with the judge’s ruling.
House Republican Speaker John Boehner has sought funds from the Justice Department’s budget to pay for the defense, but Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has demanded details about the expected cost, including details about the contract retaining Clement.
Clement is now a private practicing attorney at the firm King & Spalding in Washington after working as the solicitor general from June 2005 to June 2008 in which he served as the government’s primary lawyer to argue cases at the Supreme Court. A spokesman for the firm said Clement had been hired, but declined further comment.
The hot-button issue of same-sex marriage has been the focus of many judicial and political battles across the country. Gay marriage has only been legalized in the District of Columbia and a handful of the 50 states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Some states have allowed same-sex civil unions, which Obama has supported, but he has opposed full marriage rights for gays and lesbians. In December Obama said that his views about it were “constantly evolving” and “I struggle with this.”
PHOTOS: Reuters/Robert Galbraith (A same-sex couple await a marriage license in California; and a man protests such unions).