Saturday, March 8, 2014

Indiana Attorney General Vows to Defend State Law Banning Same Sex Marriage

This week came news that Kentucky's Attorney General wouldn't defend the Kentucky law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.  Instead, pursuant to the laws of that commonwealth, private counsel was appointed to defend the law in court.

Then yesterday came news that a legal challenge had been filed against Indiana's law which also defines marriage as between a man and a woman, therefore excluding same sex marriages. The Indianapolis Star reports:
Indiana’s law banning same-sex marriages and the recognition of such unions legally
Indiana Attorney General
Greg Zoeller
performed in other states is the latest to come under attack in federal court.
Four Indiana same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana challenging the state law, hoping to catch a recent wave of successful challenges to similar state laws.
Two of the couples — Melissa Love and Erin Brock of Jeffersonville, and Michael Drury and Lane Stumler of New Albany — want to get married in Indiana.
The two other couples — Jo Ann Dale and Carol Uebelhoer of Otisco, and Jennifer Redmond and Jana Kohorst of Jeffersonville — were married in other states and want their marriages recognized in Indiana.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office issued a press release that will undoubtedly disappoint folks who did not want to see Indiana's law defended in court:
Today Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced that his office will defend Indiana’s statutory marriage definition from a legal challenge filed today in federal court.  
“As Indiana's Attorney General I will represent our state and defend our statute now and on any appeal to the best of my skill and ability, as I swore an oath to do.  As state government’s lawyer, I must defend the state’s authority to define marriage at the state level within Indiana’s borders.  People of goodwill have sincere differences of opinion on the marriage definition, but I hope Hoosiers can remain civil to each other as this legal question is litigated in the federal court,” Zoeller said.
I don't have a problem with Zoeller defending Indiana's marriage law in court. That is his job.  My problem with Zoeller is that he is a hypocrite, in the past refusing to defend in court Indiana laws he didn't like, such as ones allowing for expungement of crimnal convictions and the immigration law.  While it is understandable that at times the Attorney General might be uncomfortable defending certain laws, there is an opt out provision in the code that allows other counsel to be appointed in such situations.  Instead, Zoeller has steadfastly refused to exercise that provision, leaving the state laws undefended in court.  Such an approach gives Zoeller an absolute veto over legislation, a veto that cannot be overridden, not by the Governor, not even by a unanimous vote of the General Assembly.

It is exactly because of Zoeller power grab that members of his own party in the Indiana Senate this session authored a measure to allow the General Assembly to hire counsel to defend laws when the Attorney General refuses.  Another bill aimed at curbing Zoeller's claimed authority was introduced during the 2013 session.

See also:  

Saturday, January 11, 2014, State Senate Bill Seeks to Check Power of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller 

Monday, December 30, 2013, Attorney General Zoeller Encroaches on Governor's Power as He Lobbies for More Federal Funding for School Resource Officers

Monday, October 28, 2013, Indiana Attorney General Refuses to Defend the Constitutionality of Expungement Law

Tuesday, February 12, 2013, Bill Highlights Tension Between Indiana General Assembly and Attorney General

Saturday, September 8, 2012, Republican State Senators Spar with Attorney General Over Representation in Indiana Immigration Case; AG Zoeller Claims He is Both State's Attorney and Client


Unigov said...

It's about time somebody sued over gay marriage. Iowa's state supreme court ruled in favor of gay marriage a few years ago. Indiana and Iowa constitutions have very similar language regarding equal rights, which I covered here:

Those against gay marriage are hypocrites, for specific constitutional reasons. Our state constitution demands equal treatment for all. But the state has created numerous advantages for married couples, such as subsidies for spouse healthcare for state employees. Someone who's against gay marriage based on their view of constitutional rights should also have introduced legislation to eliminate all the benefits afforded married couples, like employee healthcare.

Zoeller is about the weirdest guy in government.

LamLawIndy said...

IMHO, the state should get out of the marriage regulatory business, regardless of the parties' orientation.

Charles M. Navarra said...

Zoeller's AG track record prompts me to believe he is from another planet. I concur that the state should not be in the "marriage regulatory business". I also agree that it is not equal treatment when numerous tax advantages and subsidies and legal advantages are granted to some unions over others.