HARRISBURG, PA, May 8, 2014 ( – The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee convened on Tuesday to discuss a resolution to impeach Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane after she declared she would not defend the state’s marriage amendment.

At the hearing, Democratic legislators quickly called a vote to adjourn.  When their movement failed, all ten Democrats strode out of the room in protest, leaving Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), who is leading the initiative, and other conservative lawmakers to carry on without them. Kane was not present at the hearing.

“We could have had an exchange of ideas today,” Metcalfe said after they left. “They clearly are not able to defend her, so instead chose to run.”


The committee has not yet voted on the motion.  Should the committee pass the resolution to impeach Kane, the State Senate would then judge the case, as per Pennsylvania law.  An impeachment requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate in order to pass.

The state’s Democrats, however, believe the impeachment will fall through.

“[The resolution] is based on policy decisions, not wrongdoing,” said Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, the minority chairman.  “This just doesn't make sense for the long-range future of Pennsylvania. It would be a mistake.”

Another reason for the impeachment resolution is Kane’s failure to prosecute four Democrat legislators who were allegedly caught on videotape taking cash in a sting operation. According to Kane, who inherited the investigation when she came into office, the case was not strong enough for prosecution.

However, Kane’s refusal to defend Pennsylvania’s marriage amendment has been the more prominent factor in the search for impeachment. 

Last July, Kane declared that she found the state marriage amendment unconstitutional and she “cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA.”

Within weeks, Rep. Metcalfe called for Kane’s impeachment, saying, “I think breaking the law is worthy of impeachment. … Her duty is to defend the law.”

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Other Republican lawmakers saw her declaration as the beginning of a slippery slope in which lawmakers’ personal opinions could topple a state’s laws.

“It is unacceptable for Attorney General Kathleen Kane to put her personal politics ahead of her taxpayer-funded job by abdicating her responsibilities,” said Rob Gleason, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

The battle for traditional marriage has faced several obstacles on the state level in recent years.

Since then-Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to defend California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, attorneys general in Nevada, Illinois, Virginia, and Oregon have declared their intention to do nothing to uphold their state’s marriage amendments.

On the federal level, United States Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that attorneys general are not required to defend laws they find to be discriminatory. Republican attorneys general shot back saying they would “continue to fight every single day to protect our Constitution and defend states’ rights.”

In an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, Republican Attorney General John Smuthers of Colorado stated that an attorney general’s first and foremost duty is to uphold the laws of his state, regardless of personal opinion.

“I have been attorney general of Colorado for nine years,” Smuthers said, “during which time the state has enacted laws that span the philosophical and political spectrum. I personally oppose a number of Colorado’s laws as a matter of public policy, and a few are contrary to my religious beliefs. But as my state’s attorney general, I have defended them all — and will continue to.”

But Republicans are not the only litigators who disagree with Holder’s approval of ignoring states’ laws.

Democratic Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel recently declared that, though he personally supports gay “marriage,” he will defend his state’s marriage amendment because it is his duty as attorney general.

“I do not take orders from Eric Holder and I'm determined to live up to my obligation,” McDaniel said on Saturday, “and that includes with regard to our state's definition of marriage.”


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