Saturday, July 13, 2013

Observations 7.13

On Tuesday the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Harrisburg challenging Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban on behalf of 23 plaintiffs. On Thursday Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that her office would not defend Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act. Since 1980 Pennsylvania's Attorney General has been an elected office and Kane, a Democrat, is the first woman or Democrat to ever hold the position. Kane's decision may well doom Governor Tom Corbett's reelection bid next year. Corbett, an unpopular (30% approval rating) Republican in his first term, will most likely defend the law with his general counsel but that will give him almost no chance of winning in suburban Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. If he doesn't defend it his own wingnut base will destroy him.

Pennsylvania state law and politics will make this so interesting to watch as it plays out. As I said Attorney General is an elected office in Pennsylvania unlike most states where the AG is appointed by the Governor. You have a Democrat AG with aspirations of higher office, Kane, and a Republican Governor up for reelection, Corbett. The whole episode is like a political chess match in which Kane has just smiled and said "your move Governor."

I couldn't find Kane's complete statement anywhere but below are the highlights and here is a link to the Pennsylvania Attorney Generals Office website which has more information. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this story.

"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. Additionally, it is a lawyer's ethical obligation under Pennsylvania's Rules of Professional Conduct to withdraw from a case in which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement with the client.

"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.

"The issue of same-sex marriage is squarely in the tradition of the struggle for civil rights in the United States. We have always stood strong in the face of discrimination, which in its various forms has never withstood the test of time. It is our duty, each and every one of us, to protect the constitutionality, to protect the rights and dignity of others, and to protect the equality of all men and women in this Commonwealth.

"Today, the attorney general chooses to protect all those without high-priced lawyers, all those who suffer discrimination and inequality, those thousands of families who have been denied of the dignity and respect that the constitution protects and guarantees in marriage equality. Today we represent everyone who does not have representation."

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