HARRISBURG -- A day after calling Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional and saying she will not fight for it in court, Attorney General Kathleen Kane defended her decision from critics who say it is her duty to do so and who questioned why her office is continuing to defend a controversial voter ID law.
Ms. Kane made national headlines Thursday when she said she announced in the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia she could not ethically defend the state's version of the Defense of Marriage Act -- the subject of a federal lawsuit filed earlier this week by the ACLU and a Philadelphia law firm.
She has since faced a barrage of criticism, much of it from Republicans, who say as the state's top attorney she must defend the statute, regardless of her beliefs, and shouldn't leave the job up to the governor's office of general counsel, to whom the job likely now falls.
Not so, Ms. Kane said Friday in a statement.
"The Commonwealth Attorneys Act has a specific, plainly written provision that enables me to refer cases at my sole discretion. The [office of attorney general] refers cases to the [office of general counsel] hundreds of times each year, for many different reasons."
While state law charges the attorney general with defending against challenges to statutes, it tasks the separate office of the general counsel to "defend the commonwealth or any executive agency when ... the attorney general refuses or fails to initiate appropriate proceedings."
The general counsel is appointed by and reports to the governor.
Ms. Kane also addressed why her office is defending the state's controversial voter ID law, while stepping aside on DOMA.
Ms. Kane publicly disagreed with the ID law during her 2012 bid for attorney general, but has not pulled her office's lawyers off the challenge to that law, which will be the subject of a trial in Commonwealth Court starting Monday.
"There is a key difference between the two. The Pennsylvania voter ID law is, on its face, constitutional. My concern with the voter ID law has always been its implementation. DOMA is different. DOMA is wholly unconstitutional. It cannot be fixed."
Ms. Kane had said in February that members of her office had discussed the constitutionality of the ID law.
"We're talking a lot about the role of the attorney general versus the role of also protecting the constitution," she said.
"Sometimes, as you know, there is a parallel proceeding. In my view, the constitution always wins."
First Published July 12, 2013 5:30 PM