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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 3 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 31
Republicans play politics with DOMA lawsuits
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Republicans play politics with DOMA lawsuits

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted a request by House Republican leaders for an extension on their deadline to respond to two requests that the high court review the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Republicans, who took up the task of defending DOMA in court after the U.S. Department of Justice decided it would no longer do so, had until August 2 to inform the court whether they believed it should review the two challenges.

The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to hear Golinski v. OPM and Gill v. OPM, suits originally brought by Lambda Legal and GLAD, respectively, and issue a decision on whether DOMA is constitutional.

The delay granted by the Supreme Court gives the House Republican leadership until August 31 to decide if they will also ask the court to take the DOMA cases. According to lawyers working on the case, the deadline extension will delay the hearing of the cases - if the court decides to take either of them - by one week at most, when the justices reconvene in the fall.

The new timeline may have more to do with this year's presidential campaigns than with constitutional law, however.

The new deadline falls one day after the end of the Republican National Convention on August 30, and a week before the Democratic convention. This timeline provides an opportunity for Republicans to attack President Obama on the marriage issue, and - they presumably hope - to expand the 'bounce' in favorability ratings that parties usually see immediately after their conventions.

A third request for a Supreme Court hearing on DOMA, in Windsor v. United States, has been filed by the ACLU. The deadline for a response from Republicans in this case is August 16.

Gill v. OPM already has been decided by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that DOMA violates the Constitution's equal protection clause in the Fifth Amendment. The next - and last - appeal in this case would be to the Supreme Court.

Federal district court judges have made similar rulings in Golinski and Windsor, but those cases have not yet been heard by an appeals court. It would be unusual, though not unprecedented, for the Supreme Court to review those decisions before that happens.

The Supreme Court is not obligated to hear any case. It will issue a writ of certiorari to take a case only if four of the nine justices vote to do so.

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