Pennsylvania AG Refuses to Defend State’s Gay Marriage Ban
Citing the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage on Tuesday–and that’s fine for the state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, who announced on Thursday she won’t be defending the law.
Speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Kane cited the Pennsylvania Constitution’s ban against discrimination and said, “It is now the time here in Pennsylvania to end another wave of discrimination.”
The audience cheered and clapped in response to Kane who was elected last year and is a possible gubernatorial candidate.
While Kane, a Democrat (duh), may be embracing marriage equality, the Republican Governor Tom Corbett favors discrimination and opposes same-sex marriage.
Unsurprisingly, his fellow Republicans are also upset that Kane is getting in the way of the homophobic status quo.
Pennsylvania GOP chairman Rob Gleason wrote in a statement that it is “unacceptable for Attorney General Kathleen Kane to put her personal politics ahead of her taxpayer-funded job by abdicating her responsibilities… She is blatantly politicizing the highest law enforcement office in our Commonwealth at the expense of a core responsibility of the Attorney General’s office… Pennsylvanians are left with the question, if Kathleen Kane’s political beliefs are the standard for law enforcement, what law will she ignore next?”
Pennsylvania General Counsel James D. Schultz also condemned Kane’s actions, saying he was “surprised that the Attorney General, contrary to her constitutional duty under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, has decided not to defend a Pennsylvania statute lawfully enacted by the General Assembly, merely because of her personal beliefs.”
And in a surprise to no one, Kane angered the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, whose spokeperson Thomas Peters complained: “This is just one more example of how the Supreme Court set a bad precedent [last month] in allowing elected officials to not represent the will of the people when they find it expedient.”
How on earth can Kane live with herself?
First of all, she’s not the first attorney general who refused to defend his or her state’s anti-marriage equality laws, and as Kane explained in an interview, “If there is a law that I feel that does not conform with the Pennsylvania state constitution and the U.S. Constitution, then I ethically cannot do that as a lawyer.”
Kane further explained this in a press release, saying, “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional… It is my duty under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act whenever I determine it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to authorize the Office of General Counsel to defend the state in litigation… I know that in this state there are people who don’t believe in what we are doing, and I’m not asking them to believe in it. I’m asking them to believe in the constitution.”
This is welcome news for Mary Catherine Roper, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania: “To have the highest law enforcement official of the Commonwealth come out and say, ‘I agree with you, this law is unjust,’ that’s huge for us.”
And defeating same-sex marriage would be huge for the plaintiffs who include 10 couples, two minor children of those couples, and one widow whose partner of 29 years recently died.
If you’re on the fence about marriage equality or think it’s not that important an issue, watch this video about the aforementioned 29-year-long relationship between Maureen Hennessey and Mary Beth McIntyre below:
The ACLU, capitalizing on the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision, is filing similar lawsuits in North Carolina and Virginia, and plans to do so in more states soon.
Image credit: YouTube.