113th Congress opens with fresh faces; Same GOP rhetoric

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A historic number number of openly gay or bisexual lawmakers were sworn in to office on Capital Hill today. The incoming class features seven “out” members who also represent a lot of “firsts”, including Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz, the first openly bisexual congresswoman; Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif, the first first openly gay lawmaker of color; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis, the first openly gay person elected to the Senate and Jared Polis D-CO, capital hill’s first openly gay parent.

Last session there were four openly gay congressional members including 72-year-old Barney Frank, D-Mass, who brought his 40 year political career to a close with the end of the 112th session.

The significant increase seemed lost on House Republicans, who have pledged to continue funding a legal effort to defend the federal law that prevents the government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

“The Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group has already spent $1.7 million paying outside legal counsel to intervene in 14 federal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act in courts since the Obama Administration and the Department of Justice decided to stop defending the law in court in 2011,” The Advocate reports.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, condemned the Republican Party’s proposed language to continue funding DOMA’s legal defense. He also stressed to the magazine that the BLAG’s actions do not speak for all members of the House.

“Today House Republicans will send a clear message to LGBT families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future,” Hammill said in a statement Thursday. “Republicans will take the extraordinary measure of including an authorization of their efforts to defend DOMA in the Rules of the House of Representatives and by doing so, continue to spend taxpayer funds, already adding up to $1.7 million, in their attempts to defend this shameful law in federal courts and the Supreme Court.”

Human Rights Campaign Legislative Director Allison Herwitt also released a response :

“In their very first act of the 113th Congress, House Republican leaders have written their commitment to their multi-million-dollar defense of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act into the Rules of the House. It is particularly disappointing that this historic Congress – with the largest-ever class of openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Members and same-sex congressional spouses – has begun with a vote that disrespects those new Members and all LGBT Americans.”

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