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Pelosi denounces continued funding for legal defense of DOMA

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U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, is fuming over a decision by her Republican counterparts to continue earmarking taxpayers’ money to back the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.

In a statement, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said House Republicans sent “a clear message” Thursday (the first day of the 2013 congressional session) to LGBT Americans – that the GOP’s “fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future.”

Already, $1.7 million has been spent by the GOP-controlled Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group in the House to defend DOMA in federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The federal law defines marriage as being between only a man and a woman, thus banning same-sex marriage.

Allison Herwitt, legislative director of the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign, which opposes DOMA, said it was “particularly disappointing” that the Republicans’ action came on the same day that the largest-ever number of open lesbian, gay and bisexual members of Congress was sworn in.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in the House, said in a statement reported by ABC News: “We continue to believe the constitutionality of the law should be judged by the court, not the president unilaterally — and will provide the resources needed to protect our system of checks and balances.”

Later this year, the Supreme Court is set to take up Windsor v. United States, a DOMA challenge filed by lesbian widow Edie Windsor. In 2011, the Obama administration declared it no longer would defend DOMA in court. DOMA took effect in 1996.

“The case to end DOMA is compelling. DOMA unfairly denies thousands of legally married same-sex couples across the country federal protections in many areas of their lives such as social security, veterans’ benefits, health care, taxes, and immigration,” Stuart Gaffney, a spokesman for Marriage Equality USA, which opposes DOMA, said in a December statement.

“Every lower federal court that has considered the issue has held that excluding married same-sex couples from these protections in unfair and unconstitutional,” he added. “It’s time for the United States Supreme Court to do the same.”

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