Attorney General Eric Holder says states' attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws if they consider them discriminatory, including bans on same-sex marriage.
In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, Holder said officials who have studied same-sex marriage bans could refuse to enforce them.
“Engaging in that process and making that determination is something that’s appropriate for an attorney general to do,” he told the Times.
Six Democratic state attorneys general have already decided not to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage, the report notes.
“If I were attorney general in Kansas in 1953, I would not have defended a Kansas statute that put in place separate-but-equal facilities,” Holder said.
On Tuesday, Holder is slated to address the National Association of Attorneys General. Its president, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R), criticized Holder for his comments.
“It really isn’t his job to give us advice on defending our constitutions any more than it’s our role to give him advice on how to do his job,” Van Hollen told the Times. “We are the ultimate defenders of our state constitutions.”
Since the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act last year, Holder has promised he would make sure the Justice Department extends the appropriate benefits to same-sex couples.
Earlier this month, Holder announced such an extension at a gala for gay rights group the Human Rights Campaign. The Obama administration will now allow same-sex couples to file for bankruptcy together and said they wouldn’t be required to testify against each other during a trial.