Attorneys General Should Ignore Holder

It takes little imagination to visualize how the election campaigns of Patrick Morrisey in West Virginia and Mike DeWine in Ohio would have ended had they promised voters, “Look, if elected attorney general, I promise to enforce the laws I like and ignore the ones with which I disagree.”

Neither man did that, of course. Both pledged to enforce state laws and represent the state, when necessary, in court. Morrisey was elected attorney general of West Virginia. DeWine became attorney general of Ohio.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a group of state attorneys general they are not obligated to defend same-sex marriage bans, if they exist in their states.

The context of what Holder said – same-sex marriage – is irrelevant. It is what he said – that state attorneys general do not have to defend their states if they disagree with certain laws – that is outrageous.

State attorneys general are elected to deal with existing laws, not judge their constitutionality. That is up to the courts. Enacting laws is up to legislatures.

No doubt conscientious attorneys general such as Morrisey and DeWine scoffed at Holder’s advice. That would be appropriate.