The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

July 11, 2013

State attorney general won’t defend gay marriage ban

PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania’s elected attorney general said Thursday that she will not defend a 17-year-old state law effectively banning same-sex marriage from a legal challenge in federal court, meaning the task will be left up to Gov. Tom Corbett.

In a brief statement to reporters and a small crowd of supporters at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said she cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s marriage law, and that she believes it to be unconstitutional.

“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,” Kane said. “Today we represent everyone who does not have representation.”

Kane, a Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, said the state and U.S. Constitution each stress equal protection under the law.

“It is our duty, each and every one of us ... to protect the equality of all men and women in this commonwealth,” she said.

The job of defending the law now falls to Corbett, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage. He and Kane were both named in a lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday seeking to overturn the law and legalize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.

Under Pennsylvania law, it is the attorney general’s duty to defend the constitutionality of state laws. But the law also says the attorney general may allow lawyers for the governor’s office or executive-branch agencies to defend a lawsuit if it is more efficient or in the state’s best interests.

The Office of General Counsel, which is under the governor, is accustomed to handling the state’s legal affairs and routinely hires outside lawyers to either defend state laws or prosecute lawsuits on behalf of the state.

For instance, the office is helping in the defense of Pennsylvania’s year-old voter identification law and it handled Corbett’s anti-trust lawsuit, now thrown out of federal court, seeking to undo the NCAA sanctions against Penn State relating to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Corbett has not said whether he will fight the lawsuit, but his general counsel, James Schultz, attacked Kane in a statement.

“We are surprised that the attorney general, contrary to her constitutional duty ... has decided not to defend a Pennsylvania statute lawfully enacted by the General Assembly, merely because of her personal beliefs,” Schultz said.

Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state that does not allow same-sex marriage or civil unions, and Kane’s stance is unlikely to change opinions in a Republican-controlled Legislature where resolutions to insert a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage have made more progress in recent years than bills to legalize same-sex marriage.

The state Republican and Democratic parties quickly tangled over Kane’s position. GOP chairman Rob Gleason attacked Kane as “blatantly politicizing” the attorney general’s office, while Democratic Party chairman Jim Burn applauded her “courageous and firm stand against a law with little merit.”

Trends in Pennsylvania show increasing support for same-sex marriage. A January poll by Quinnipiac University of 1,221 registered voters found 47 percent support it and 43 percent oppose it, with voters ages 18 to 34 supporting it, 68 percent to 25 percent.

Lawyers in the case believe it is ultimately bound for the U.S. Supreme Court, probably along with similar cases in other states, and could force the high court to rule on the core question of whether it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

It was not, however, prompted by the high court’s pair of decisions three weeks ago that delivered two victories for same-sex marriage supporters.

Pennsylvania’s 1996 state law defines marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife. The state also does not allow civil unions or recognize same-sex marriages from other states where it is legal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is co-counsel in the lawsuit, welcomed the decision.

“This is a huge boost,” said Pennsylvania staff attorney Mary Catherine Roper. “You’ve got the chief law enforcement officer of the commonwealth saying, ‘You’re right. This is not legal.’ I think it’s a sign that things are changing.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are a widow, 10 couples and one of the couples’ two teenage daughters. The group includes four couples who were legally married in other states but whose marriages go unrecognized by Pennsylvania.

Same-sex marriage is legal or soon will be in 13 states. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to prevent state officials from stopping gay couples from getting married and to force the state to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who wed in other jurisdictions.

1
Text Only
News
  • Ritz-Craft Ritz-Craft to hire 60 for Mifflinburg plant

    MIFFLINBURG — Sixty jobs are coming to Mifflinburg as a Ritz-Craft production facility that went dark seven years ago amid the housing downturn will come back on line during the next few months, company officials announced Tuesday.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Selinsgrove man dies when tractor flips in Chapman Township

    PORT TREVORTON — A 57-year-old Selinsgrove man died Tuesday evening when the farm tractor he was driving overturned and pinned him beneath it, according to Snyder County Coroner Bruce Hummel.

    July 29, 2014

  • VanKirk 'Real hero' of World War II dies

    ATLANTA, Ga. — Theodore “Dutch” VanKirk, the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, died Monday of natural causes in the retirement home where he lived in Georgia. He was 93.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mayor: Rental ban for drug dealers a success

    SUNBURY — A controversial landlord-tenant ordinance passed by the City Council in 2012 has become one of Sunbury’s “better success stories,” Mayor David Persing said Tuesday.

    July 29, 2014

  • Mom cited for allegedly leaving baby in car for 12 minutes

    LEWISBURG — A summary citation carrying a maximum fine of $127.50 was filed Tuesday against a Lewisburg woman accused of leaving her 10-month-old baby unattended for 12 minutes in a car in Union County on July 21.

    July 29, 2014

  • Line Mountain district, teachers $1.2M apart in contract talks

    MANDATA — Separate proposals from the Line Mountain School District and its teachers union are $1.2 million apart and not getting any closer, according to Benjamin L. Pratt, the district’s labor counsel at the CGA Law Firm.

    July 29, 2014

  • Road work: Expect traffic delays on Route 54 near Danville

    RIVERSIDE — Motorists in the Danville-Riverside area are advised that a 2.2-mile micro-surfacing project on Route 54 from Riverside borough to Boyd Station in Northumberland County will begin this afternoon.

    July 29, 2014

  • Blood trail leads to stabbing suspect in Montour County

    DANVILLE — Borough police followed a trail of blood along a sidewalk, up a staircase and down a hallway that led to a moaning woman who they say knifed another woman Sunday night.

    July 29, 2014

  • Spencer_Maria1.jpg Maria Spencer charged with murdering her ex-husband

    SELINSGROVE — On Monday, a little more than two years after Frank Spencer was executed outside his Columbia County home, his former wife and her father were charged in his murder and the attempted homicide of Spencer’s girlfriend.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opponents, supporters to discuss clean air rules

    DENVER — Hundreds of people are expected to attend public hearings this week in a handful of cities across the U.S. to tell federal regulators what they think of proposed rules to cut pollution from power plants.

    July 29, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.