Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians


July 11, 2013

Attorney General Kane will not defend DOMA

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced that the Office of Attorney General will not defend Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act in a recently filed lawsuit (Whitewood, et al vs Corbett, et al). The lawsuit challenges Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act, based on the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution.

The law, commonly referred to as DOMA, prohibits marriage between people of the same sex. In addition, under DOMA, same-sex marriages that are legally made in other states are void in Pennsylvania.

"I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's version of DOMA where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional," Kane said.

"It is my duty under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act whenever I determine it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to authorize the Office of General Counsel to defend the state in litigation."

"Additionally, it is a lawyer's ethical obligation under Pennsylvania's Rules of Professional Conduct to withdraw from a case in which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement with the client," said Kane.

Kane made the following points about DOMA:

  • Pennsylvania's DOMA, like the federal DOMA, imposes a disadvantage, a separate status, and a stigma on those who enter into same-sex marriages. 
  • Pennsylvania's DOMA wrongly denies same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry in Pennsylvania; and for those same-sex couples who legally marry outside Pennsylvania, it denies them the fundamental right to have their lawful marriage recognized in our state.  
  • Pennsylvania's DOMA has no legitimate purpose other than to disparage and injure same-sex couples by placing them in a less respected position than others.  
  • The discriminatory treatment explicitly authorized by DOMA violates both the US and Pennsylvania Constitution.

"I know that in this state there are people who don't believe in what we are doing, and I'm not asking them to believe in it. I'm asking them to believe in the constitution," Kane said.

The issue of same-sex marriage is squarely in the tradition of the struggle for civil rights in the U.S.

"We have always stood strong in the face of discrimination, which in its various forms has never withstood the test of time," Kane said.

"It is our duty, each and every one of us, to protect the constitutionality, to protect the rights and dignity of others, and to protect the equality of all men and women in this Commonwealth." 

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