Attorney General Kathleen Kane: I won't defend Pennsylvania law banning gay marriage
Pennsylvania is the only Northeastern state that does not allow same-sex marriage or civil unions.
"Marriage is more than a word, it is a commitment between two people who love each other," explained Evan Smoak. "It's a right that should be afforded to all consenting adults, regardless of sexual orientation."
Evan and his husband Zachary will celebrate one year of marriage this weekend. Except their matrimony isn't recognized in Philadelphia where they live.
A state law passed in 1996 bans any recognition of homosexual unions.
"We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, and I want to start acting like that," announced Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Kane was met with cheers and smiles Thursday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Two weeks after the US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on gay marriage, the fight is coming to the Keystone State.
"Denying equality is the very definition of discrimination," said Kane.
Ten couples, along with the ACLU, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state seeking to legalize gay marriage. Kane says she won't defend the challenge in court.
"I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's version of DOMA where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional," she explained.
Legally, it's the attorney general's duty to defend the constitutionality of state laws. But the law also says the AG can allow lawyers for the governor's office to defend a lawsuit if it's more efficient, or in the state's best interests.
"In deciding whether I have to perform the parallel duties of representing the agencies of this Commonwealth, it was in conflict of my other duty of protecting and defending the constitution of the United States and Pennsylvania," shared Kane.
She says she's leaving the job to Governor Tom Corbett.
"Today the attorney general chooses to protect those without high priced lawyers, all those who suffer discrimination and inequality," Kane added. "Those thousands of families who have been denied of the dignity and respect that the constitution protects and guarantees in marriage equality."
"It's really good to know that the highest ranking lawyer of the state of Pennsylvania is behind us," said Zachary Smoak with a smile.
But not everyone feels the same way.
"Marriage is defined very clearly as between a man and a woman," described Marilyn Hartman with El Shaddai Ministries.
"I know that in this state there are people who don't believe in what we're doing, and I'm not asking them to believe in it," said Kane. "I'm asking them to believe in the constitution. I'm asking them for tolerance, I'm asking them for understanding, and I'm asking them for equality and due process."
Governor Corbett's office will not comment on the lawsuit.
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