Republican AG’s: Marriage for States

Photograph by Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Darcia Anthony, left, and Danielle Williams react after participating in a wedding ceremony at City Hall in Baltimore, on Jan. 1, 2013.

The fact that dozens of prominent Republicans are petitioning the Supreme Court to declare a constitutional right for same-sex marriage doesn’t mean that plenty of Republicans aren’t telling the high court something else.

“We believe states ought to have the decision-making authority,” says Scott Pruitt, Republican attorney general of Oklahoma, whose state has joined others in briefs supporting the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in the Supreme Court.

Some 75 Republicans have signed on to a brief backing former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, in opposing Prop 8 at the high court, according to the New York Times. They include Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor who sought the Republican Party’s presidential nomination last year.

“I don’t think you’re seeing a rift in the Republican Party,” Alan Wilson, the Republican attorney general of South Carolina, said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington today. He maintained that he and other Republican attorneys general supporting Prop 8 at the high court are trying “not to politicize the law.” Yet marriage, he believes, is a matter for a man and a woman.

Sam Olens, Republican attorney general of Georgia, suggested at a meeting of the three with editors and reporters from Bloomberg News, Government and Radio that the Supreme Court may not go as far as advocates of either side of the issue would like. He predicts a ruling narrowly focused on questions of federal and state authority, including constitutional amendments, as opposed to any declaration about gay marriage.

“I think folks on both sides… will be disappointed with the court’s ruling,” Olens said.

As a Thursday deadline nears for filing arguments in the Prop 8 case, all eyes are on the White House, which has filed a petition opposing DOMA. The California amendment will be argued on March 26, DOMA on March 27, with rulings likely by the end of June.

The Republicans have taken an activist role in other cases, challenging President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court. And Olens and others are involved in briefs challenging the constitutionality of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations.

“I’d much rather people work out problems,” Olens said of the financial regulatory issue. But in Washington, he said, leaders appear to have lost that ability. “We’d have much less work as AG’s,” he said. “We’re not looking for litigation,” Olens said. “We’re looking for Congress to do their job.”

The Southern attorneys general were reticent today to talk about gun control, with Olens suggesting: “There is, frankly, broad agreement that there can be a strengthening of background checks” for gun-buyers.” But “all the talk seems to be on the size of the clip and assault weapons,” he said, effectively losing the opportunity that the schoolhouse shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, have presented to address the failings of mental health treatment in the U.S.

Wilson maintained that his concern is not “infringing on the rights of many to ensure that the criminality of a few” is not carried out.

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