It’s highly unusual for the U.S. Attorney General to step into state matters, but that’s exactly what Eric Holder has done, telling his counterparts at the state level they don’t have to defend certain laws they feel are discriminatory — specifically, laws against gay marriage, the New York Times reported Monday.
“Mr. Holder was careful not to encourage his state counterparts to disavow their own laws, but said that officials who have carefully studied bans on gay marriage could refuse to defend them,” the Times added.
So far, six attorneys general have refused to defend state laws banning gay marriage. All six are Democrats, and have sparked criticism from Republicans who say they have a duty to uphold the law.
But Holder sees it differently and says an attorney general should scrutinize a law before deciding whether or not to defend it.
“Engaging in that process and making that determination is something that’s appropriate for an attorney general to do,” he said.
“If I were attorney general in Kansas in 1953, I would not have defended a Kansas statute that put in place separate-but-equal facilities,” he added.
According to Holder, the gay rights movement and battles over gay marriage are an extension of the civil rights battles of the 1960s.
A number of people found Holder’s declaration disturbing, Twitchy said.
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York, for example, tweeted: “NYT wrote Holder ‘careful not to encourage his state counterparts to disavow their own laws.’ But that’s what he did.”
Another person wondered what would happen if a conservative attorney general decided not to enforce a law enshrining gay marriage, speculating that Holder would be the first to denounce that attorney general.
John W. Suthers, a Republican serving as Colorado’s attorney general says he personally opposes “a number” of the state’s laws, but enforces them anyway, even though some are contrary to his religious beliefs.
“But as my state’s attorney general, I have defended them all — and will continue to,” he said.
“We are the ultimate defenders of our state constitutions,” added Wisconsin Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen, another Republican.
Van Hollen also suggested Holder keep his nose out of state affairs.
“It really isn’t his job to give us advice on defending our constitutions any more than it’s our role to give him advice on how to do his job,” he said.
“If there’s one clear-cut job I have, it’s to defend my Constitution,” he added. “There is no one else in position to defend the State Constitution if it comes under attack.”
Holder is set to address the National Association of Attorneys General on Tuesday, a group headed by by Van Hollen.
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