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08/25/2009

Pro-fams: AGs should defend the law...until they shouldn't

by Jeremy Hooper

Because of his refusal to defend Proposition 8 in federal court, some on the far-right have gone so far as to call for California Attorney General Jerry Brown's impeachment. But when it comes to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's failure to defend his state's legislatively-enacted domestic partnership law, how do the "pro-family" troops react? Well here, let's let Focus on the Family tell ya:

A decision not to defend a bad law is good news for marriage supporters in Wisconsin.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen — who ordinarily would defend a duly-enacted law — announced Friday he will not defend the state's domestic-partner law from a legal challenge brought by a pro-family group.

Under that law, which passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Jim Doyle earlier this year, same-sex couples began applying for domestic-partnership recognition this month. Wisconsin Family Action has asked that the registry be declared unconstitutional under the 2006 amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Julaine Appling, chief executive officer of Wisconsin Family Action, said Van Hollen took a strong position when he said he would not disregard the constitution or the will of the people by defending the registry.

"What J.B. Van Hollen was saying was that his oath of office is to defend the constitution," she said, "not the Legislature and not the governor."
KEEP READING: Wisconsin Attorney General Will Not Defend Domestic Partnerships [CitizenLink]

So basically, when an AG's withheld defense might benefit the anti-gay cause, the religious right sees the potential end as justifying the means. It's "good Van-Hollen-1news." But when an AG's decision is in the name of LGBT inclusivity and nondiscrimination? RAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And the thing is: It's not even like we're talking about a one-to-one swap out here. While on the surface it may seem like Brown and Van Hollen are doing the same thing in reverse, the reality is that Jerry Brown's decision is born out of a fair-minded commitment to nondiscrimination, whereas J.B Van Hollen justifies his action by citing the state's already discriminatory constitutional marriage amendment. So what we actually have is one man, Brown, who is standing up for principles that deserve defense (like equal protection), and another man, Van Hollen, refusing to defend this one thrown-bone because a majority of his state's voters have chosen to unfairly cast stones (even though those cast stones were supposed to apply only to marriage, not what's up for discussion here: domestic partnerships). One man who's defending his citizens from unfair civil bias, another who's failing to do so because of the same.

But will we rage at Van Hollen and suggest things like impeachment? No, of course not. Because unlike our opposition, our ideas about an Attorney General's rights are defined by the role itself, not whatever benefit we might see in the same. And in this case, both Brown and Van Hollen are perfectly free to act as they are acting, even if the latter's act is one of unprincipled antagonism.

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Your thoughts

My comment on the original article:

FACT: if a governor and AG in Iowa or some other equal state refused to recognize same-sex marriage these exact same people would applaud them as heroes.

Posted by: penguinsaur | Aug 13, 2009 1:43:43 PM


Now who would like their fortune read? Because apparently I'm psychic.

Posted by: penguinsaur | Aug 25, 2009 11:31:36 AM

You could be psychic, penguinsaur. You also could just be paying attention to these folks' comically reliable hypocrisy.

Now if only the majority of society would start paying attention...

Posted by: G-A-Y | Aug 25, 2009 11:38:49 AM

As a Wisconsinite and retired lawyer, I see Van Hollen's decision not to defend the law as a benefit.

Governor Doyle has announced that he will appoint outside counsel to defend the law, as is the practice in rare cases when the AG cannot or will not defend a state law. Outside counsel, in this case, can be expected to put up a solid defense. In my view, that's a lot better than relying on the half-assed "defense" Van Hollen would likely put up.

As to Van Hollen, he's a social conservative lapdog for the Religious Right, positioning himself for a run for Governor. What else would you expect from him?

Posted by: Tom Scharbach | Aug 25, 2009 6:51:32 PM

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