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
  • DEA packet compares school scores, salaries

    DANVLLE — Members of the Danville Education Association are circulating a pamphlet as part of their planned strike on Thursday.

    April 16, 2014

  • Snyder DA says email security breach could be a crime

    MIDDLEBURG — Even though acting Midd-West Superintendent Daphne Snook may not have broken school policy by monitoring district emails, Valley legal experts say she still may have broken the law.

    April 16, 2014

  • Midd-West board feels backlash

    April 16, 2014

  • Good Morning Central Susquehanna Valley

    Today is Wednesday, April 16, the 106th day of 2014. There are 259 days left in the year. On April 16, 1964, The Rolling Stones’ first album, eponymously titled “The Rolling Stones,” was released in the United Kingdom by Decca Records (a slightly different version debuted in the United States a month and a-half later).

    April 16, 2014

  • Donkey basketball draws 600, raises $1,800

    SUNBURY — The Shikellamy Fieldhouse was loud and rocking Tuesday night as Shikellamy High School students took on the Valley All-Stars in a donkey basketball fundraiser to benefit Newspapers in Education.

    April 15, 2014

  • mail16a.jpg Post Offices busy just before today's tax deadline

    SUNBURY — Bill Shambach plopped his three envelopes addressed to tax collectors on the counter of the Post Office on North Third Street at 12:15 p.m. this afternoon — four hours before the office closed for the day.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Guzzardi_Bob.png Governor's Republican opponent remains on primary ballot

    HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania state judge has ruled that a Republican gubernatorial candidate can stay on the May 20 primary ballot as the lone challenger to Gov. Tom Corbett.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Suspect in Kansas shootings faces murder charges

    OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Kansas prosecutors filed state-level murder charges Tuesday against the white supremacist accused in shootings that left three people dead at two Jewish community sites in suburban Kansas City.

    April 15, 2014

  • Woman found in attic dies following house fire

    WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — Authorities in northeastern Pennsylvania say fire claimed the life of a woman overnight.
    Officials in Luzerne County say crews were called to the Wilkes-Barre residence just before 11:30 p.m. Monday.

    April 15, 2014

  • Cold0415.jpg Local weather takes a major plunge today

    STATE COLLEGE — Heavy rain and thunderstorms will sweep across the Northeast later today, putting many at risk for dangerous flooding and damaging winds.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

The Daily Marquee
Poll

Are you among those who will be completing and mailing your tax forms today?

Yes
No - Already Filed
     View Results
Photo Galleries
The Valley

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.