WASHINGTON (BP)--Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have chosen former Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement to represent the chamber in its defense of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and conservative leaders are applauding the choice.

Clement was solicitor general under President George W. Bush and is highly respected in conservative circles. House Republican leaders voted in March to try to intervene in federal court to defend the law after President Obama ordered the Department of Justice off the case.

Although a court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in 2010, other federal courts have upheld it. House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement April 18 that he hopes to divert funds from the Department of Justice to the House in order to pay for the legal defense, but he likely will run into opposition from Democrats who believe the House should not be involved. Clement filed his first legal brief April 18, a brief that simply asks the court to allow the House to intervene.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, applauded the House's choosing of Clement. The National Organization for Marriage played crucial roles in overturning "gay marriage" laws in California and Maine.

"At last we have a legal eagle on this case who actually wants to win in court!" Brown said in a statement. "Paul Clement is a genuinely distinguished lawyer ... who we are confident will win this case. Thanks to Speaker Boehner's actions, President Obama's attempt to sabotage the legal defense of DOMA is not going to work."

If the lawsuits against DOMA are successful, then the federal government for the first time would be forced to recognize the "gay marriages" of states such as Massachusetts and to grant federal benefits to same-sex couples. Eventually, all 50 states could be forced to recognize such "marriages." Technically, the current lawsuits only target half of the Defense of Marriage Act -- the part that defines marriage in federal law. The other half of DOMA gives states the option of not recognizing another state's "gay marriages." Obama, though, has made clear he opposes the law, and a March 2 story in The Los Angeles Times said homosexual groups are ready to target the entire law if they win the current cases.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, also expressed optimism.

"The American people deserve to have their laws defended," Brian Raum, an ADF attorney, said in a statement. "The House is demonstrating that it will not let a law that it overwhelmingly passed, that President Clinton signed, and that the American people support go undefended. ADF believes the House made an excellent decision by choosing former Solicitor General Paul Clement as lead counsel to defend DOMA, and we will support his efforts in whatever way we can."

DELAWARE SET TO LEGALIZE CIVIL UNIONS -- A bill that would legalize same-sex civil unions in Delaware passed the state House, 26-15, April 15 and is headed to the desk of Democratic Gov. Jack Markell, who has pledged to sign it. It previously passed the Senate, 13-6. Democrats control both chambers.

The bill would grant homosexual couples all the legal benefits of marriage, minus the name. Delaware would become the eighth state to legalize what opponents call "gay marriage by another name." Opponents also say it is a path to "gay marriage."

Three states -- Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont -- legalized civil unions only later to legalize "gay marriage."

Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.

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