Attorney General Kathleen Kane's decision to forego defending Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act has undermined the rule of law in Pennsylvania. There are plenty of political issues across Pennsylvania and our country about which citizens vigorously disagree. The proper size and scope of the state budget; voter ID regulations; the privatization of retail liquor sales; the definition of marriage: these are just a few of the contentious issues that divide us.
What unites us, however, as Pennsylvanians and as Americans is a commitment to the process by which these political disputes are resolved. Regardless of what side of a controversy we're on, there is solace in the rule of law -- the concept that we are all playing by the same rules, and that those rules will not be arbitrarily changed to fit personal or political agendas.
We submit ourselves to this rule of law, and we expect our elected officials to submit themselves to it. This is a fundamental principle of the American Republic. Nothing undermines political comity and stability more than when the rule of law is seen as contingent on the whims of politicians.
And yet this state of instability is exactly where we find ourselves in Pennsylvania due to Kane's abandonment of our Commonwealth's overwhelmingly-approved Defense of Marriage Act. Her actions beg the question: which Pennsylvania laws are actually laws, and which are just suggestions? Only Kathleen Kane knows.
This is not idle speculation. It is not a coincidence that within weeks of Kane's announcement Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes decided to publicly flout state law by distributing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In casting doubt on the validity of a duly-enacted law without actually going through the prescribed legal process to invalidate it, Kane has opened up space for Hanes or any local executive official to write his or her preferences into the law.