Patt Morrison

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To defend or not to defend the voters of California, that is the question for future governors & attorneys general

by Patt Morrison

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California Governor Jerry Brown. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Then Attorney General Jerry Brown caused quite a chasm when he declined to defend in court the majority voter-approved Proposition 8 that amended the California constitution to explicitly define marriage as existing between a man and woman. Gay marriage supporters hailed what they saw as Brown’s moral decency, while Prop 8 supporters cried political foul—how was it that a publicly elected official could absent himself from defending the “will of the people” by popular vote? Now, the former Attorney General candidate and current state Senator Tom Harkin (R-CA’s 35th District) is introducing Senate Bill 5, which would require the state attorney general to defend all voter-approved laws from legal challenges or authorize their sponsors to step in. If the political tables were turned—on gay marriage, healthcare or any number on equally-contentious issues—would those who cried foul in the prop 8 debate still support the AG to take that stand? What does the Attorney General’s office obligate its occupant to defend and should personal discretion enter into the equation?

Guests:

Sen. Tom Harman, R-CA’s 35th District (Huntington Beach, Irvine and Costa Mesa). He’s the author of SB5, which would require the state attorney general to defend all voter-approved laws from legal challenges

Vikram Amar, associate dean for academic affairs & professor of law at the UC Davis School of Law

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