Today, Wisconsin’s Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said that he will not defend a law conferring a small sliver of the benefits of marriage to gay couples because it contradicts the Wisconsin constitution. In 2006 voters added an amendment to the constitution banning gay marriage or any “substantially similar” institution, and Van Hollen says that he will “abide by their command.”
Van Hollen’s statement comes only days after Barack Obama lamented that the Executive branch was required to defend any law that was not directly unconstitutional, including the controversial Defense of Marriage Act.
Van Hollen’s decision was criticized by openly gay state senator Mark Pocan, who felt that Van Hollen’s stance was purely political.
“That’s clearly a statement by J.B. Van Hollen the politician, not J.B. Van Hollen the attorney general,” he said. “He’s trying to make a name for himself but this is the kind of sloppy political decision that hurts the institution.”
This does not mean that the law will go undefended should a suit brought by the Wisconsin Family Council be taken up by the Wisconsin Supreme Court – an outside counsel will be provided at the cost of about $175 an hour (this after Wisconsin posted a record $6.6 billion budget shortfall in June).