Philadelphia — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused on Thursday to fight a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The lawsuit is believed to be the first federal case since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that the U.S. government must recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal.
Kane, a Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, announced her decision at a press conference in the National Constitution Center in historic Philadelphia.
“I cannot ethically defend Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA,” Kane said, referring to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, overturned by the high court last month.
“It is now the time here in Pennsylvania to end another form of discrimination,” Kane said to a crowd of about 200 supporters gathered at conference, many carrying signs reading “Out for Freedom” and cheering her decision.
“We are the land of the free and the home of the brave and I want to start acting like that,” she said.
By declining to defend the state, Kane effectively tosses the issue to Governor Tom Corbett, who can decide to appoint another state lawyer to the task.
Kane and Corbett, a Republican who opposes gay marriage, are both named in the federal lawsuit that was filed in Harrisburg this week.
The ACLU sued on behalf of 23 people, including potential marriage candidates whose unions would not be recognized under current Pennsylvania law.
Among the plaintiffs is Helena Miller, a Jewish teacher from Philadephia. She wants Pennsylvania to recognize her marriage to Dara Raspberry and to declare both women legal parents of their baby daughter.
The lawsuit asks the court to allow the plaintiffs and all other same-sex couples the right to marry in Pennsylvania, and also asks that the marriages of same-sex couples validly obtained in other states be recognized by the state.