Former Bush-era Solicitor General Paul Clement will defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on behalf of Congress, House Speaker John Boehner announced Monday.
Boehner’s appointment followed Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision that the Obama Justice Department would not defend DOMA, a 1996 law which defines marriage as a legal union only between one man and one woman.
The Republican’s appointment quickly drew praise from the anti-gay marriage camp and ire from marriage equality supporters. In dueling press releases, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) praised Clement as a “legal eagle on this case who actually wants to win in court,” while the Human Rights Campaign called Clement “a high priced attorney” who Boehner hired “to deny federal recognition to loving, married couples.”
“Paul Clement is a genuinely distinguished lawyer, a former Solicitor General of the United States, who we are confident will win this case,” NOM President Brian Brown said in his statement. “Thanks to Speaker Boehner’s actions, President Obama’s attempt to sabotage the legal defense of DOMA is not going to work.”
HRC President Joe Solmonese said House Republican leaders are “defending the indefensible” and said Boehner “appears ready to go to great lengths, and the great expense of a high-power law firm, to try to score some cheap political points on the backs of same-sex couples.” Solmonese also went after Clement’s law firm for taking on the job.
“King & Spaulding were not required to take up this defense and should be ashamed of associating themselves with an effort to deny rights to their fellow citizens,” Solmonese said in the statement. “With such a high-priced lawyer, it’s no wonder the Speaker is grasping at straws in order to justify spending taxpayer money on defending discrimination. Next he’ll probably call for slashing Education Department funding because kids might learn it’s unconstitutional to discriminate against certain groups of people.”
Clement served as solicitor general from June 2005 until June 2008 and previously served as acting solicitor general and as principal deputy solicitor general. He’s argued over 50 cases before the United States Supreme Court. Clement did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Boehner said earlier Monday that he wants the House’s legal fees for defending DOMA to be taken out of the Justice Department’s budget. NOM’s Brown said that Boehner “is also quite right that the money to defend DOMA should be deducted from the Justice Department’s budget, since they will be doing the job DOJ should have done, but refused to do.”