The Slatest

Pa. Attorney General Wants No Part of Defending “Wholly Unconstitutional” Gay-Marriage Ban

Same sex marriage advocates rally on the steps of the Supreme Court June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced this afternoon that she will not defend the state in an upcoming lawsuit challenging its ban on gay marriage. “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of [the Defense of Marriage Act] as I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,” she said. Here’s the Philadelphia Daily News with the background:

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit, known as Whitewood v. Corbett, on Tuesday on behalf of 21 state residents. The plaintiffs are 10 couples and one widow who want to marry here, want the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages or want equal protections granted to straight married couples. The suit was filed in Harrisburg and is believed to be the first federal case on the gay marriage issue since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last month.

While Kane’s move is an encouraging one for gay marriage advocates, it doesn’t mean that the ACLU’s suit has a clear path to victory. As the Washington Post points out, then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and current Gov. Jerry Brown (D)—who at the time served as the state’s attorney general—refused to defend Prop 8 in court when it was challenged, but advocates of the law stepped in to defend it anyway. For the record, Pennsylvania is currently the only state in the Northeast that has a law specifically prohibiting same-sex marriage.