Attorney General in Pa Won’t Defend Gay Marriage Ban in Court

Leaves Job To Republican Governor Tom Corbett

Kathleen Kane, the Attorney General of the state of Pennsylvania, said on July 11, 2013, that she will not defend the state’s gay marriage ban in court.  Under Pennsylvania law, it’s the Attorney General’s duty to defend the constitutionality of state laws.  But the law also says that the Attorney General may allow lawyers for the Governor’s office or Executive Branch agencies to defend a lawsuit if it’s more efficient or in the state’s best interest.

Kane’s Decision Not To Defend the Ban

I cannot ethically defend the constitutionally of Pennsylvania’s (law banning same-sex marriage) where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,” Kane, the first Democrat and woman to be elected to Attorney General, said.

Kane will instead leave the defense to the state’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett who wants to keep the ban that the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to strike down in the federal lawsuit, known as Whitewood v. Corbett. On behalf of twenty-three state residents, the suit was filed on July 9, 2013.  The plaintiffs are ten couples and one widow who lost her same-sex partner after twenty-nine years together, and two children of another such couple.  Collectively, they want the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages or want equal protections granted to straight married couples. This is the first known challenge to the state lawwhich effectively bans same-sex marriage.

Pennsylvania’s History with Gay Marriage

Pennsylvania is the only eastern state that doesn’t allow same-sex marriage or civil unions. The state law defining marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife was passed in the legislature in 1996.  Trends in Pennsylvania show increasing support for same-sex marriage.  A Quinnipiac University Poll of 1,221 registered voters in Pennsylvania found that forty-seven percent favored same-sex marriage.

Comments From Party Chairmen

Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn applauded her ” courageous and firm stand against a law with little merit.”  However, GOP Chairman Rob Gleason vehemently disagrees and attacked Kane, voted into office in 2012,, as “blatantly politicizing the Attorney General’s office.”

Brian Sims’s Testimony

Openly gay State Representative Brian Sims tweeted “ Attorney General Kathleen Kane, if you were a man, I’d marry you.”  He went on to say….”when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the federal DOMA unconstitutional, the decision thrust many states, Pennsylvania included, into the national spotlight.  Kane has decided that continuing to defend the Common’s DOMA has no legal merit.  Kane’s announcement is a step in the right direction to address the legal inequalities impacting LBT Pennsylvanians.  The truth of the matter is, our Commonwealth currently does not have a single LGBT civil right.”

Philadelphia City Council Passes LGBT Equality Bill

First in the Nation!

Bill 130224 passed with a 14-3 vote on April 25, 2013.  It not only gives a tax credit incentive to private businesses that offered employee health plans, including surgery that would include same-sex partners and children, but also a substantial benefits to the transgender community as well. The bill was sponsored by City Councilman Jim Kenney and opposed by Democrat Councilman-at-Large Bill Green who had concerns about the fiscal issues.  Republican Councilmen-at-Large David Oh and Brian O’Neill also voted against the bill.

What the Bill Permits: Landmark Benefits for Transgender Community

The bill would revamp the city’s health-care plan to ban discrimination against non-union transgender city employees and would instate a Transgender Health Tax Credit that would encourage companies to offer transgender-specific health-insurance coverage to the transgender community. The legislation, expected to be signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter, clarifies what constitutes employment discrimination in the city’s nondiscrimination law.  City buildings would also be required to provide gender-neutral bathrooms for the safety and comfort of its LGBT citizens.

Other Important Aspects of the Bill

This bill makes a series of revisions to the Philadelphia Code to provide for equality of treatment for all Philadelphians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  It makes city forms gender-neutral and makes it easier for transgender individuals to request name changes and gender markers on some records.  The existing provisions relating to Life Partnerships were expanded and revised.  It ensures that people who work in Philadelphia will be able to dress consistently with their gender identity.  Also, it bans healthcare discrimination against non-union transgender city employers.

Perfect Score for this Bill

The 2012 Municipal Equality Index gave Philadelphia a perfect score. It received a nationwide evaluation of the LGBT inclusiveness of municipal law and policy.  Philadelphia was one of eleven cities to receive 100 points on the MEI in 2012.

Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state legislator Brian Sims praised the Council for championing equality.