On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a federal suit to overturn Pennsylvania's 17-year-old ban on gay marriage. Earlier today, state attorney general Kathleen Kane announced that she won't defend the ban in court.
"We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, and I want to start acting like that," Kane told reporters during a raucous news conference at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Dozens of supporters of same-sex marriage erupted into cheers and applause as she spoke.Kane was named as a defendant in the suit along with Governor Tom Corbett and state health secretary Stephen Wolf. However, she is known to support marriage equality. In her press conference today, she went on to say that Pennsylvania's law is "wholly unconstitutional," and therefore she can't ethically defend it in court.
The decision by Kane, the state's top law enforcement official, may ultimately mean little in the actual court defense of the state marriage law. But it was heralded by activists and gay couples as a major victory in the court of public opinion.
"It's huge, it's absolutely huge, and emotionally powerful," said Molly Tack-Hooper, one of the ACLU attorneys who filed the federal suit in Harrisburg on Tuesday.
The suit was filed on behalf of 23 couples from across the state, as well as the children of one of the couples. Among them are four couples who were married in other states, but whose unions aren't legally recognized in Pennsylvania. The lead plaintiffs are Deb and Susan Whitewood of Bridgeville, near Pittsburgh. The suit argues in grave terms that Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban is a flagrant violation of the federal constitution's due-process clause. Read it here. It heavily quotes from United States v. Windsor, which overturned DOMA.
Predictably, the state GOP is up in arms.
"What law will she ignore next?" asked state GOP Chairman Rob Gleason. "The people of Pennsylvania elect citizens to carry out constitutional responsibilities based on the tradition that no one is above the law."Um, Rob? No one is below the law either.
It's unacceptable for Kane "to put her personal politics ahead of her taxpayer-funded job by abdicating her responsibilities," he said. "She is blatantly politicizing the highest law enforcement office in our Commonwealth."
Take a run over to Kane's Facebook page and thank her.