Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Sam Olens: Non-defense of same-sex marriage bans is ‘lawless’

Gov. Nathan Deal was supposed to be at today’s gathering of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, with leader Ralph Reed in attendance, but he called in sick.

A spokesman said Deal is in the Governor’s Mansion resting, and has cancelled events for the rest of the day.

But the show went on – and we caught Sam Olens. The state attorney general told the audience that he was part of the audience in Washington this week when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Olens and his peers were not obligated to defend local laws if they believed the laws violated the U.S. Constitution.

Democratic attorneys general in at least six states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Oregon and Nevada — have declined to defend same-sex-marriage bans that have been challenged in court by gay couples.

“That’s not only callous, it’s lawless,” Olens said. “I don’t have any fiat over what’s the law and what’s not the law in this state. And whether I like a bill they pass across the street or not, unless there is a solid legal basis that it is inherently and expressly unconstitutional, I have a duty to enforce it and defend it.”

Olens said it works the other way, too:

“The next time around you could have a Republican president, and an individual nominated by the Republican president, and if they choose, for instance, to disavow a defense of any bills passed in the first two years President Obama’s administration [in other words, the Affordable Care Act], that would be just as wrong.”


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.