Friday, July 12, 2013

Not Defending the Indefensible

In Altoona right now there are some people that aren't very happy with AG Kathleen Kane because she didn't stand in the way of the takeover of Altoona Hospital by UPMC.  Personally, I think that she didn't have grounds to stop the "merger" *cough...takeover...cough*, and I also think she went much further than she had to in stating that ARHS is a community hospital and that UPMC has to maintain the ability of all community members to access it.  She did what she had to and she put UPMC on notice, which, as far as I'm concerned, was more than she had to do.

For me, Kathleen Kane is just one win after the next.  I'm not saying she can do no wrong, everybody - and most certainly every political figure - is going to disappoint sooner or later.  I'm still waiting for AG Kane to disappoint though, and I now know that one issue on which she will not disappoint is marriage equality.

Picture from Delware Daily Times

Several days ago the Pennsylvania ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's marriage law which states that marriage is a a civil contract between a man and a woman and which declares that same-sex marriages entered into elsewhere are void in Pennsylvania.  The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of 23 plaintiffs; ten couples, two children of same-sex parents, and one widow.  The lawsuit names both Governor Tom Corbett and AG Kathleen Kane as defendants, but Kane stated yesterday that she would not defend the law.
"I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's version of DOMA as I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional," 
Kane was, of course, labelled almost immediately by Republicans as not doing her constitutional duties because of her personal beliefs.  Of course the irony of that is really almost too much to handle since it was just a few weeks ago that Daryl Metcalfe (R-Crazytown) wouldn't let a fellow Representative speak because what the Representative in question was going to say was "against God".  In fact, PA General Counsel James Schultz simply could believe that Kane wouldn't defend the law "merely" based on her personal beliefs.  Newsflash for Mr. Schultz and other similarly minded PA Republicans, it is also the duty of the Attorney General to review the legality of proposed laws.  Now, clearly Kane wasn't in office when this law was enacted, but if she feels that it's unconstitutional then why should she waste taxpayer dollars defending it?  

The real Republican sour grapes are most likely from the fact that now the defense of this law, this law created based on some people's personal beliefs, will fall to Governor Tom Corbett.  This situation is a stinker for Corbett, whose poll numbers are in the toilet.  Between telling women to just close their eyes and being unable to find a Latino, Corbett couldn't ask for much worse than being forced to choose whether to defend Pennsylvania's increasingly unpopular marriage law.   Corbett will absolutely defend the law, since he is an ardent supporter of rampant inequality.  I'm not sure if it will hurt his numbers, but it certainly won't help, which is just as good for whoever his Democratic opponent ends up being.  

I'll be watching this lawsuit to see how it unfolds.  Republicans are saying that it is circumventing the democratic process, but I say that challenging a law through the court system is something that's built into our democracy.  It's checks and balances in action.  Just because a law was voted on by our elected representatives doesn't mean that it either reflects the will of the people or that it's necessarily constitutional, as we've seen recently in the case of DOMA.  Whether or not Pennsylvania's marriage law will be ruled unconstitutional is hard to say.  This court case isn't going to be quick or easy and maybe Representatives like Brian Sims will make this lawsuit unnecessary by passing marriage equality into law in Pennsylvania, we'll see. 

What I do know is that, in a state where you can be fired just for being gay, the 23 plaintiffs in this suit are heroes.  They are standing up for their freedom to love and to have that love recognized and to receive all the same legal benefits that I receive as a woman married to a man.  Recently in this state two men who have been together for 45 years had to legally take on the status of parent and adopted child to ensure that they would not be subject to discriminatory inheritance laws.  Pennsylvania's current law enforces a discriminatory view that those two men who have been life partners for 45 years have a relationship that is somehow less than mine and less than any other opposite sex couple.  If marriage is, as Pennsylvania law states, a civil contract, then whether that contract is between a man and a woman or two men or two women is absolutely irrelevant.  The idea that same-sex marriage is wrong is one based purely on religious prejudices which have no place in a civil contract and I look forward to a day when this kind of prejudice is no longer enshrined in the laws of the Commonwealth that I love.