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PAGOP Dings Kane on Process But Not Gay Rights (With Video)

The PAGOP is highlighting this video of candidate Kathleen Kane saying an Attorney General couldn’t choose which laws to enforce – days after she did just that on the issue of same-sax marriage.

But the party is staying quiet on the underlying issue of same-sex marriage.

“The Attorney General Does not have the right to pick and choose which laws he or she enforces,” Kane said during a March 2012 segment on PCN. “And in fact, that’s a dangerous proposition.”

Kathleen Kane portrait

She was chiding her primary opponent, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, who had said he would refuse to enforce a GOP-proposed ultrasound mandate.

Last week Kane said her office would not defend the state against a challenge brought by the Pa. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. She said she wouldn’t defend a law she believes is unconstitutional.

“Kane’s shameless publicity stunt is now revealed as stunning hypocrisy,” the PAGOP said in a press release.

Kane’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Governor Tom Corbett gave a similar response, as did other Republicans. But even some independent and liberal commentators said Kane was in the wrong. Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News said she should resign.

“The problem with Kane’s maneuver is that it sets a precedent that can come back to bite liberals in the butt,” wrote Philadelphia Magazine columnist Joel Mathis.

Democrats and gay rights advocates have roundly praised Kane’s decision.

There’s a bit of wiggle room between the concept of enforcing the law and defending it, particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal prohibition against same-sex marriage recognition in June.

Legally, Kane has the authority to defer the defense of a law to the Governor’s office – which she has done in this case.

But the fact that the GOP is focusing on the AG’s duties, rather than the subject of same-sex marriage, shows the party believes Kane has the upper hand on that issue.

Asked specifically whether the party supports or opposes repealing the same-sex marriage ban through legislative channels, Executive Director Bob Bozzuto took a pass.

“The only issue that is an issue right now is that our legislature passes laws, Governors sign them and Attorneys General defend them in court,” he said.

For the past year, public polling has shown growing support for same-sex marriage among Pa. voters. Most now support the concept. Even more support civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

The problem for the GOP? Most voters probably care a lot less about legal nuances than they do about the issue of same-sex marriage.

“Anybody who thinks process, not opinions on same sex marriage, will drive opinion on AG decision has spent too much time in Harrisburg,” observed Jon Geeting of the left-leaning blog Keystone Politics.

6 Responses

  1. I expect the 17th Amendment Repealers to begin calling for changing direct election of the AG in PA back to selection by the Governor.

  2. There is a difference between defending the constitutionality of a law in response to a civil suit and enforcing the law while it is on the books.
    As was stated, the Legislature passed the law, the Governor enacted the law. The AG, through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion and the exercise of independent legal judge prosecutes laws on the books; she is not elected to be a rubber stamp, step-n-fetch-it for the Governor and the Legislature. The AG has discretion, and she has exercised it, according to law. If the Governor is so hell-bent on defending this unconstitutional law that his predecessor Governor Ridge and the republican dominated legislature put into effect all those years ago, he has the right and through OGC the ability to do it.
    AG Kane is admitting constitutional reality, not playing games. Seems to me the people taking pot shots at her are still upset that she creamed Corbett’s anointed one, Dave Freed. If anyone is engaging in cheap political stunts here, it is the PaGOP….again!


    If you can provide some constitutional justification for denying law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples the same legal benefits Straight couples have always taken for granted, I’m all ears. But I have to wonder how you would feel if you, as a taxpayer, were forced to help subsidize an institution that you were forbidden from taking part in. Does the Constitution apply only to people who are Straight (i.e. heterosexual)?

    Religious beliefs are irrelevant to this debate, because (1) the United States is not theocracy, and (2) churches will continue to be free to conduct or deny ceremonies to whomever they want.

    Procreation and parenting are irrelevant, since (1) couples do not have to marry to have children, and (2) the ability or even desire to have children is not a prerequisite for getting a marriage license.

    This is simply a matter of equal treatment under the law.

    The quest for marriage equality by Gay couples has absolutely nothing to do with Straight (i.e. heterosexual) couples. Nothing is changing for them. Nothing is happening to “traditional marriage.” Most people are Straight, and they will continue to date, get engaged, marry and build lives and families together as they always have. None of that will change by allowing Gay couples to do the same. This is really not any sort of a “sea change” for marriage, since the only difference between Gay and Straight couples is the gender of the two persons in the relationship.

  4. Chuck, this is the same nonsense you keep posting on pennlive. It’s wrong and you are showing how little you understand the law.

  5. There is a big difference between enforcing a law and defending it in court. Take the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): It was transparently unconstitutional, since it set up differing legal standards for legally married Gay and Straight couples. That’s why the Obama Administration chose not to DEFEND it in court. This doesn’t mean that the law was not enforced while it was still on the books.

    Similarly, Kathleen Kane will continue to enforce Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for Gay couples for as long as the law is on the books. But in terms of its constitutionality, why should she be forced to defend in court something that she knows is indefensible, especially given the Supreme Court’s decisions on DOMA and Prop. 8?

    Those of us who support marriage equality for law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples didn’t really have a choice but to “target” all the piecemeal, state-by-state bans, didn’t we? The Supreme Court could have issued a comprehensive ruling requiring Gay and Straight couples to be treated equally, at ALL levels of government, but instead they chose to punt on the some of the details.

    So what now? Most of the legal benefits of marriage come from the federal government. Take survivor benefits under Social Security, for example. Legally married Gay couples in Iowa are now entitled to those benefits, but suppose one of those couples relocates to West Virginia, which has a statutory ban on same-sex marriage. Does the state have the power to forcibly annul that marriage? And if so, does the couple now LOSE those federal benefits?

    Don’t fault US for continuing this fight. The Supreme Court left us no choice.

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