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March 11, 2011

Five arrested in DOMA protest at Boehner’s office

West Chester--Five Ohio activists were arrested March 9 after staging a sit-in outside of U. S. House Speaker John Boehner's 8th Congressional District office in West Chester, just north of Cincinnati.

The five, members of the LGBT direct-action group GetEqual, were charged with trespassing after sitting in the rain outside the speaker's office while reading names from a petition with 33,233 signers. They had refused to leave after being denied entry to Boehner's office, where they attempted to deliver the petition urging him not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Sean Watkins, Morgan Bonney, Jesse Bonney, Liz Mills and Karay Martin were released at 5 pm after being photographed for mug shots and fingerprinted. They are to appear in court March 29.

They were part of an outdoor rally involving 30 to 40 people protesting Boehner's March 4 announcement that he would initiate "action by the House to defend" DOMA, after the Obama administration said it viewed the 1996 act as unconstitutional and would no longer defend it in court.

Dan Fotu, GetEqual's eastern region field director, said that being refused entry to Boehner's office "just weeks after the speaker announced 'this is your House, not my House' shows that his open door policy does not apply to the LGBT community."

In Washington, Boehner convened the House’s Legal Advisory Group that day to direct its counsel to defend the act. The group voted 3-2 along party lines to do so. Boehner later announced his intent for the House to intervene as a third party defendant in court cases challenging DOMA. There are five such cases now in federal courts; one judge ruled the act unconstitutional last year.

"We strongly encourage the speaker to heed the advice of Rep. Pelosi and the millions of Americans who are demanding the speaker focus on job creation and not discrimination," said GetEqual state organizer Tom Morgan.

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