Democratic Attorney General candidate Greg Hecht took his case straight to the source on Sunday, blasting Republican incumbent Sam Olens for defending the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
Hecht went on the offensive during the debate organized by the Atlanta Press Club, voicing of his support of same-sex marriage and his position the lawsuit challenging Georgia’s ban should not be defended.
He also denied he changed his mind on same-sex marriage due to politics after Olens accused him of doing so; Hecht opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions in 2007 during his unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor.
“Hecht said his views changed four years ago when President Barack Obama announced that his own had evolved. Plus, he said as a lawyer, the decision of the 25 courts is a legal reason to see the ban differently now,” the Savannah Morning News reported.
Hecht used the words of renowned attorney Ted Olson to strike at Olens stance that he is required to defend Georgia’s same-sex marriage law, according to a story in the Fulton Daily Report.
“Attorney General Olens said, last year, if a law is clearly unconstitutional … you are not to defend it,” Hecht said, according to the Fulton County Daily Report. “Twenty-five courts have said that the marriage equality ban is unconstitutional based on a violation of the equal protection clause, the due process clause and the privileges and immunities clause.
“We are not to defend unconstitutional laws,” Hecht added. Hecht was paraphrasing one of President George W. Bush’s solicitor generals, Olson, one of George W. Bush’s solicitor generals. In 2009, Olson joined with David Boies, who he faced off in 2000 in the Bush v. Gore case, to challenge California’s Proposition 8 law banning same-sex marriage, winning the case and bringing marriage back to California.
From the Daily Report: Citing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in United States v. Windsor, which struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Olens responded that it would “pose grave consequences” for executive branch officers to not defend the law. “What Mr. Hecht is seeking is for the executive branch to play the judicial branch,” Olens said. “Totally inappropriate.”
Hecht went on to say taxpayer money being used to defend the lawsuit would be better spent prosecuting child abuse cases, according to the Savannah Morning News.
“What we should be doing is fundamentally protecting citizens in need, such as the 400 children who passed away between 2011 and 2013 when that man was wasting time on unconstitutional laws,” Hecht said.
Olens responded with his position that since the U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Georgia, have not taken up Georgia’s ban then he has an obligation to defend it.
“It’s not my job to state my personal opinion on same-sex (marriage),” Olens said. “I think it’s actually contrary when you are the attorney general to do so because, once again, my primary job is not to replace the courts but to defend Georgia law.”
Hecht announced in July he would not defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
“It is time we had an Attorney General who will protect all citizens’ freedom to share in the right to marry and pursue happiness, as opposed to an Attorney General that makes decisions based on political calculation,” Hecht, a former Georgia state senator, said in a statement released by his campaign.
In an interview with GA Voice in July, Hecht acknowledged he had evolved on marriage equality and stressed Georgia should not defend the “unconstitutional” law.
“The Georgia law violates peoples’ right to share in the freedom to marry. It discriminates against people and is unconstitutional. Over 20 courts nationwide have determined the law to be unconstitutional and the attorney general is wasting tremendous resources defending discrimination, ignoring corruption and not doing his job. We would not defend [the ban] and we would put money into prosecuting corruption and put resources into protecting children,” he said.
Hecht also confirmed that he believes in marriage equality both from a constitutional perspective in his potential capacity as attorney general, and personally as a citizen, citing he had evolved on the issue like other politicians.
“Most of us have evolved and know that it is a law that discriminates and we have evolved into understanding that this discrimination should not stand,” he said.