The state Republican Party is stepping up its criticism of Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s refusal to defend the state’s defense-of-marriage law, circulating a 2012 video where Kane talks about the perils of picking which laws to defend.
The video shows a segment from a March 2012 interview with PCN-TV, while Kane was running for attorney general. “The attorney general does not have the right to pick and choose which laws he or she enforces,” Kane said in PCN interview.
“That’s a dangerous proposition,” she added.
The interview segment echoes the GOP’s criticism of Kane’s much-publicized declaration that she won’t defend the state’s marriage law.
A group of same-sex couples has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Pennsylvania’s 17-year-old law that bars gay couples from marrying in the Keystone State. Kane said she couldn’t defend the law because it’s unconstitutional.
The state Republican Party says she’s abandoning her duties by choosing not to enforce an existing state law.
“It is unacceptable for Attorney General Kathleen Kane to put her personal politics ahead of her taxpayer-funded job by abdicating her responsibilities,” state GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said in a statement last week.
PennLive has reached out to the attorney general’s office for comment. A call was placed to her office late Monday afternoon; we’ll update the story if there’s a response.
The PCN interview
In the 2012 video, Kane’s quotes about the attorney general’s responsibilities do not relate to defending the gay-marriage law.
The question centered on whether Kane would defend a law requiring women to obtain an ultrasound before getting an abortion (a bill with such language was introduced last year but stalled in the Legislature, well short of being enacted into law). Kane’s opponent in the Democratic primary, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, had said he wouldn’t enforce such a law.
In response to that question about the abortion legislation, Kane said an attorney general doesn’t get to choose which laws to defend. “You need to make sure you enforce the law, otherwise you’re just playing politics,” Kane said.
Kane also made clear her distaste for the abortion legislation in the interview, calling it a “very scary proposition.”
Kane has garnered national notice for her unwillingness to defend the state’s defense-of-marriage law.
At the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia Thursday, Kane said, “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional.” She also cited ethical considerations, saying she couldn’t take on a case where she fundamentally disagrees with her client. Fellow Democrats and advocates for gay rights applauded Kane’s announcement.
On Friday, Kane issued an additional statement, noting that state law allows the attorney general to authorize the state’s general counsel, or other state agency lawyers, to defend cases where it is efficient or “in the best interest of the commonwealth.”
In addition, Kane said that her office is assisting in the defense of the state’s “Voter ID” law because that law is constitutional. She added that she has concerns about how the law will be enforced. A hearing on the legal challenge of the voter identification law began Monday in Commonwealth Court.
Since taking over as attorney general in January, Kane has made a number of headlines.
She struck down Gov. Tom Corbett administration’s contract to put a private company in charge of the Pennsylvania Lottery. Keeping an early campaign promise, Kane began an investigation of the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case, but has remained quiet about the status of the probe. Kane filed charges in the Pennsylvania Turnpike pay-to-play scandal.
Kane is the first Democrat — and first woman — to be elected attorney general. (Linda Kelly, Kane’s predecessor, was appointed to the office after Corbett was elected governor.)
Kane defeated Murphy in the Democratic primary, and she cruised past Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed in the general election. Kane received more votes than any candidate in Pennsylvania last November, including President Barack Obama and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr.