Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Can You Put a Price on Discrimination? How about $500,000.

According to a document obtained this week by the Huffington Post, House Republicans plan to pay the law firm of former Solicitor General Paul Clement as much as $500,000 of taxpayer money to protect the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. After a February announcement that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the controversial bill, which defines marriage at the federal level as between one man and one woman, House Republicans declared their intent to hire counsels to defend DOMA.

Although the spending cap for the defense of DOMA is currently set at $500,000, the contract obtained by the Huffington Post indicates the cap could be raised "by written agreement between the parties with the approval" of the House of Representatives. Critics of Boehner's defense of DOMA suggest that the existing cap could be met fairly quickly, setting the stage for even more taxpayer money to be spent in an attempt to deny the rights of same-sex partners. From a statement by Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese:
"There are currently at least nine cases challenging the constitutionality of section 3 of DOMA which bars federal recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. If the House were to intervene in all nine that would mean less than 100 billable hours would be spent per case in order to hit the $500,000 cap. Clearly this fee cap is a lowball estimate that hides the true cost of this litigation."
Democratic lawmakers have been quick to point out that the Republican decision to defend DOMA smacks not only of intolerance, but of fiscal hypocrisy as well. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), had this to say on the issue:
"The hypocrisy of this legal boondoggle is mind-blowing...Speaker Boehner is spending half a million dollars of taxpayer money to defend discrimination. If Republicans were really interested in cutting spending, this should be at the top of the list."
It is shameful enough that House Republicans insist on defending this misguided, discriminatory piece of legislation at all, but to add insult to injury these deficit hawks insist on using taxpayer money in an attempt to deny US citizens their civil rights. There's a well-worn adage about conservatives wanting to make the government small enough to fit into your bedroom, but now it seems they're intent on charging taxpayers for the house call.

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