This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) that would prohibit funds provided by a Defense Department funding bill from being used to violate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that barred the federal government from requiring states to legally recognize same-sex marriages. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2011 that the Obama administration would no longer defend DOMA against legal challenges. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, however, continued to defend the law in court.
Specifically, Foxx’s amendment prohibited the use of the underlying Defense bill’s funds from being used “in contravention” of DOMA. She argued that legislation allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military—a bill that was signed into law by President Obama in December 2010—could indirectly result in actions by the military in violation of DOMA. (Specifically, Obama had signed a bill repealing the military’s ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military—a policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or DADT.)
Foxx argued: “…The Department of Defense maintains that the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell does not directly challenge the Defense of Marriage Act, which protects the right of individual States to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. In February, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in Federal court. However, the House of Representatives has expressed its intent to continue legal defense of the statute along with other laws of our country. My proposed amendment would reaffirm Congress' assertion that funds may not be used in contravention of…the Defense of Marriage Act. The Department of the Navy has already demonstrated how pressures to accommodate same-sex couples can quickly lead to policy changes that are ultimately contrary to previous assurances given with regard to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) opposed Foxx’s amendment: “…Last year, Congress voted to repeal the counterproductive and unjust policy of `Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' But despite overwhelming evidence that repeal will strengthen our military, despite strong support for repeal among our troops and the American people, despite support for repeal from military leaders like the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and despite a Federal court order that the Government stop enforcing DADT immediately, Republicans are still pushing to keep this shameful policy in place….DOMA is discriminatory and should be ruled unconstitutional--but as long as it is law, it clearly applies to all Federal agencies, including the Defense Department. That makes this amendment entirely unnecessary. Let's see it for what it is: Republicans' effort to change the subject from open service--an argument they've lost--to marriage equality--an argument they're still in the process of losing. I urge my colleagues to oppose both amendments which put partisan belief in the exclusion of gays above the strength of our military.”
The House agreed Foxx’s amendment by a vote of 248-175. Voting “yea” were 229 Republicans and 19 Democrats. 169 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 6 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would prohibit funds provided by a Defense Department funding bill from being used to violate the Defense of Marriage Act. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would have to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president. At the time this vote occurred, the Senate had not acted on the amendment.