U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a New York Times interview published Monday that state attorneys general aren’t required to defend laws they consider discriminatory, including bans on same-sex marriage.
Holder said that state attorneys general should carefully analyze laws that raise major constitutional issues before deciding whether to defend them.
“Engaging in that process and making that determination is something that’s appropriate for an attorney general to do,” Holder told the Times.
To make his case, Holder said that if he were an attorney general “in Kansas in 1953,” he “would not have defended a Kansas statute that put in place separate-but-equal facilities.”
Six state attorneys general have decided against defending their states’ same-sex marriage bans from challenges, inviting criticism from those who argue an attorney general’s job is to defend their respective state’s laws regardless of their personal attitudes towards those laws.
Holder previously refused to defend an element of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states that recognized such arrangements. That portion of DOMA was later struck down by the Supreme Court.