ShareThis Page

Kane to Corbett: Don't tell me what to do

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 11:54 a.m.
State Attorney Gen. Kathleen Kane announced on Thursday, July 11, 2013, in the National Constitution Center that she will not defend Pennsylvania’s law effectively banning same-sex marriage against a legal challenge in federal court, meaning the task will be left up to Gov. Tom Corbett.
State Attorney Gen. Kathleen Kane announced on Thursday, July 11, 2013, in the National Constitution Center that she will not defend Pennsylvania’s law effectively banning same-sex marriage against a legal challenge in federal court, meaning the task will be left up to Gov. Tom Corbett.

HARRISBURG — A spat between Gov. Tom Corbett's lawyers and Attorney General Kathleen Kane's top staff over enforcement of a gay marriage ban has escalated, through a letter in which Kane told Corbett not to tell her what to do.

“It is not your job to tell the Office of Attorney General — an independent agency — what its duties and obligations are,” Kane's first deputy, Adrian King, told Corbett's general counsel, James Schultz, in the letter.

Schultz merely cited the duties and jurisdiction of the attorney general and general counsel under state law, said Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley.

The dispute concerns Kane's refusal to defend Pennsylvania's 1996 law banning same-sex marriage because she says it is unconstitutional.

“That's merely her opinion,” said Corbett, a former attorney general.

Kane said she delegated defense of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the marriage ban to Corbett's office, as allowed under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act.

Corbett told reporters he's never seen or heard of an attorney general handing off defense of a statute's constitutionality.

“No,” he said. “That is a very short answer. We have said we'll defend it, and we'll defend it.”

In Montgomery County, a spokeswoman for Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes said Hanes intends to continue issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples until a court tells him he cannot. He has issued 34 so far.

The Corbett administration, through the Department of Health, on Tuesday sued Hanes to try to block the licenses the state claims are illegal. Hanes began issuing licenses after Kane's July 11 statement on the gay marriage ban.

Through the court action, Corbett said, “We are asking them to stop it right now.”

On Monday, state Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democratic congressional candidate in Montgomery County, officiated his first same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.

“I did not find myself thinking about whether Gov. Corbett would approve. ... I am required to examine the license and determine if it is facially valid. On Monday, Sarah and Marcia presented me with a facially valid marriage license,” Leach said. He officiated another same-sex marriage in New York.

The flap between Corbett and Kane extends to other issues.

In one of her first moves as attorney general, Kane blocked Corbett's bid to privatize the state lottery. And, to fulfill a campaign promise, Kane hired a special deputy who is investigating whether Corbett dragged out an investigation of serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky as attorney general in order to get past the 2010 gubernatorial election that he won.

Sandusky, a former Penn State University assistant football coach, is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence on his conviction last year of 45 counts of child molestation. He was arrested in 2011.

Corbett has said he stands by the investigation and told no one to slow it down.

“(Kane) could be positioning herself for a gubernatorial run,” said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the Institute of Politics at the University of Pittsburgh. “Or she might just feel strongly about this issue.”

Her office declined comment. Corbett faces re-election next year.

King has said politics had nothing to do with Kane's decision to not defend the state's ban on gay marriages.

In the latest disagreement, Schultz said Wednesday in a letter to King that Kane “should do her duty … irrespective of her personal opinion or prediction of how a court will decide the issue.”

King responded that Schultz's assertion that her decision sets a troubling precedent is without merit.

“The marriage law is one of the last discriminatory statutes in the Commonwealth,” King said. “Just as discriminatory laws based on race, religion, gender, disability and ethnic origin have been struck down by the courts one by one, so, too, will the marriage law.

“In short,” King said, “this is a watershed moment.”

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me