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
  • DanCrash23.jpg BREAKING NEWS: Woman killed today in Danville area collision

    DANVILLE – An older woman, from the area, was killed in a log truck-car crash at about 1:45 this afternoon at Routes 642 and 54 in Valley Township.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jay Paterno sues Penn State for 'rush to judgment'

    STATE COLLEGE - Two former Penn State assistant football coaches, including a son of the late Joe Paterno, are suing the university, alleging that it fired them prematurely after the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal surfaced.

    July 23, 2014

  • 400-pound bull on the lam

    State police and a western Pennsylvania cattle owner are looking for a 2-year-old bull that has been missing for more than a week.

    July 23, 2014

  • Complainer: Cars whiz by, and drivers take whiz

    The Pennsylvania Turnpike has asked state police to increase patrols near an area of the toll road where a woman says she can see motorists exposing and relieving themselves near her backyard.

    July 23, 2014

  • spider24online.jpg Arachnid alert!

    We came across this spider brunching on another today near the American Legion post in Herndon. We aren't sure what type of spiders they are. Particularly the one with the full stomach. Do you?

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today's Editorial: Experts showing the way for reform

    Domestic abuse remains one of the most prevalent crimes nationally yet remains routinely unreported.

    July 23, 2014

  • Feds ship 500 children to Pennsylvania

    HARRISBURG — An influx of unaccompanied children crossing the southern U.S. border is spilling into Pennsylvania, as state officials received word Monday that more than 500 are being housed in the commonwealth.

    July 22, 2014

  • Hope Lewis Inmate's widow wants $750,000 from Northumberland County

    SUNBURY — The widow of a Shamokin man who hanged himself inside Northumberland County Prison is demanding $750,000, the firing of all jail employees who worked the night of June 16 and a complete overhaul of policies and procedures for suicidal inmates.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Vancliff Lifer gets more time for molesting Danville girls

    WILKES-BARRE — A convicted murderer accused of having persuaded a former Danville woman to bring two girls to visit him in a northeastern Pennsylvania prison so he could molest them has been sentenced to additional prison time and fined.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Union County driver, 86, dies near Weikert

    WEIKERT — An 86-year-old Weikert man died in a one-car accident Tuesday morning, when he lost control of his vehicle on Weikert Road in front of the Union County Sportsman’s Club, veered off the road and slammed into a tree.

    July 22, 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.