Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Thursday that she will not defend Pennsylvania’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in the federal lawsuit that was filed on Tuesday by the ACLU.
“I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s (law banning same-sex marriage), where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,” Kathleen Kane announced to reporters at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia
“We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, and I want to start acting like that.”
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the law on behalf of ten same-sex couples and one widow on the grounds that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The suit, which was filed in Harrisburg, is the first challenge to a state law against same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA in the case Windsor v. U.S. It is expected to be the first of many suits filed by the ACLU to overturn state laws against gay marriage.
Kane’s decision not to defend the 1996 PA law echoes the decision by the Obama Administration’s Justice Department to not defend the 1996 federal law in the Windsor case. It is likely though not yet certain that Governor Corbett, who is also named as a defendant in the suit, will appoint someone to defend the statute in federal court.
Kane will likely face criticism, as the Obama DOJ did, for failing to defend the state’s laws. The Pennsylvania Family Institute, a conservative group, denounced the suit when it was filed and warned that they expected Kane to fight the suit.
“It now falls on our elected officials, including the Attorney General, to defend the duly-enacted Defense of Marriage Act in the Federal Court, which we hope and expect they will do with vigor.”
PA GOP Chair Rob Gleason blasted Kane’s move.
“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. Kathleen Kane is failing our citizens and this situation leaves a gaping doubt in her ability to fairly execute her job,” Gleason said.
“Pennsylvanians are left with the question, if the Kathleen Kane’s political beliefs are the standard for law enforcement, what law will she ignore next?”
Kane’s decision was applauded, however, by LGBT advocate and openly gay State Representative Brian Sims (D-Phila).
“Attorney General Kane, Pennsylvania’s lead legal authority, has a keen legal mind and in her determination has decided that continuing to defend the Commonwealth’s DOMA has no legal merit,” he said.