Attorney General Kathleen Kane stood behind her decision Wednesday not to defend Pennsylvania officials against a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying she’s allowed by state law to delegate a case to another state attorney because of ethical and professional obligations.
Kane, in an interview with the Centre Daily Times, said she and Gov. Tom Corbett have a “material difference” over the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage law, and because of that disagreement, she can delegate the defense of the state’s law to the Office of General Counsel.
“They deserve representation in court the best that they can get,” Kane said, referring to Corbett and other state officials named as defendants in the suit brought by the ACLU. “They can’t get it from me because we have a material difference” in its constitutionality.
The lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban was filed in federal court and includes two plaintiffs from State College.
Kane’s comments came the same day that news media reported about the contents of a letter that shows an escalation in the bitter back-and-forth between the attorney general and Corbett. The letter was sent Tuesday by Kane’s chief of staff, Adrian King, to the Office of General Counsel.
“Just as discriminatory laws based on race, religion, gender, disability and ethnic origin have been struck down by the courts one by one, so too will the marriage law,” King wrote to general counsel James Schultz. “In short, this is a watershed moment.”
On Tuesday, Corbett’s office said it would defend the law and in a letter to King, Schultz wrote that the law leaves Kane no choice but to defend the ban.
King responded that Schultz “conveniently” ignored Kane’s reasons for refusing to defend the suit — her obligation to uphold the constitution and follow rules of professional conduct — and tells Schultz to back off.
“It is not your job to tell the Office of Attorney General ... what its duties and obligations are,” King wrote.
Kane, a Democrat, won election as attorney general after a campaign that was largely critical of Corbett, a Republican.
In the CDT interview Wednesday, Kane said the level of political play in Pennsylvania is worse than what she thought prior to her election. She said she won’t be bothered by politics, and she won’t let it get in the way of her decision-making.
“It doesn’t bother me what’s going to happen to me personally,” Kane said.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.