State Officials Around the Country Balk at Defending Laws They Deem Unconstitutional

In a number of high-profile cases around the country, top state officials are balking at defending laws on gay marriage, immigration and other socially divisive issues — saying the statutes are unconstitutional and should not be enforced.
July 22, 2013

Once state legislation is passed, it’s usually up to the governor and attorney general to see that the law is implemented.

But in a number of high-profile cases around the country, top state officials are balking at defending laws on gay marriage, immigration and other socially divisive issues — saying the statutes are unconstitutional and should not be enforced.

In Pennsylvania, for example, Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) says she won’t defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in federal court. In Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) filed court papers calling that state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

And in Indiana, Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R) has come under fire from conservatives for refusing to defend a portion of that state’s immigration law. He said a recent Supreme Court ruling on a similar Arizona provision means that Indiana’s law is unconstitutional.

The moves have put officials in both parties under attack from opponents, who accuse them of basing their decisions on political, rather than legal, motives. As a result, groups on both sides of the spectrum are laying plans to target the officials in upcoming elections.

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