HARRISBURG -- When state Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced she would not defend Pennsylvania's law banning same-sex marriage, Republicans said she was abdicating her duty.
Now, one conservative lawmaker says her decision is grounds for impeachment.
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, told fellow lawmakers in a memo this week that Ms. Kane, a Democrat, has created a "constitutional crisis" and that he would introduce a resolution containing articles of impeachment.
In an interview, Mr. Metcalfe said he is preparing the resolution because he believes Ms. Kane engaged in "misbehavior in office" -- the basis for impeachment in the Constitution -- by leaving the Corbett administration to defend against a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of same-sex couples.
"The issue is should an attorney general be allowed to say she's not going to defend the constitutionality of a law she disagrees with when the law of Pennsylvania says the attorney general shall defend the constitutionality of all Pennsylvania laws," he said. "This is not partisan. This is not about politics, as she's out to make it. This is about the rule of law, plain and simple."
Mr. Metcalfe is known as a conservative firebrand whose declarations are not always backed by Republican leadership. But caucus higher-ups were not entirely dismissive of the impeachment idea. House Speaker Sam Smith believes the topic is "worth consideration," said spokesman Steve Miskin.
Mr. Metcalfe said he had received inquiries from "a couple" of lawmakers seeking to add their name to the resolution, which he said he will introduce in November.
A day after the memo circulated, Ms. Kane, through her office, issued a lengthy statement saying, in part, that Pennsylvanians should "be revolted that a politician such as Rep. Metcalfe is attempting to thwart an independent attorney general from doing her job."
She suggested "Rep. Metcalfe's call for impeachment should instead be an opportunity for his own introspection."
Chris Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg College, said the claim behind Mr. Metcalfe's call for impeachment is unusual in that the lawmaker holds not that the attorney general has broken the law, but that she has failed to meet the constitutional requirements of her job.
"That's by far not the way that impeachment is usually used or threatened in Pennsylvania or any political environment," he said. "It's a reach on the part of Metcalfe in terms of the reasoning behind his claim, and it's even more of a reach to think he would be able to put together the type of numbers in the state Legislature to move this forward in any significant way."
Impeachments by the House of Representatives are tried by the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required to convict.
In 1994, state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen was removed from office after being impeached by the House and then found guilty by the Senate on one of seven counts. Larsen had been convicted on a drug conspiracy charge related to prescriptions.