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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 12, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 28
Pennsylvania AG won't defend state's Gay marriage ban
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Pennsylvania AG won't defend state's Gay marriage ban

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced on July 11 that she will decline to defend the constitutionality of the state's law barring same-sex marriages.

'I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's version of [DOMA] as I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,' Kane said.

Kane added that her decision was based both on her constitutional obligations and her commitment to Pennsylvania residents. She had a choice between defending the law and serving the public, she said, and 'I choose you.'

Pennsylvania is one of several states where the ACLU and Lambda Legal have filed suits to overturn state laws on grounds they violate the equal protection clause of the US Constitution.

Kane, a Democrat, and Republican Governor Tom Corbett are named as defendants in the suit, as the state's top executive officers. Kane's move places the burden of defending the law on the governor's general counsel. Corbett supports the law prohibiting same-sex marriage, which passed the state legislature in 1996.

Plaintiffs in the suit are 10 same-sex couples, a widow, and two children of one of the couples.

Mary Catherine Roper, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said she and others involved in the lawsuit were 'celebrating' Kane's decision.

'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,' Roper said in a phone interview.

Roper added that it was 'too early to tell' how Kane's decision would affect the actual case, but said the 23 plaintiffs would continue to pursue their suit against the state.

'We're ready to roll,' she said.

Thomas Peters, spokesman for NOM (the National Organization for Marriage), said Kane's refusal to defend the ban on same-sex marriage amounted to a 'pocket veto' of the law.

'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,' he said an in interview.

Kane's action is reminiscent of California's Prop 8 case, in which California Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, and state Attorney General Kamala Harris refused to defend the measure. Ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a lower court ruling striking Prop 8 to stand because - unlike the state's executive officers - the law's defenders lacked standing to appear in court.

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