Explained: Is Kane’s impeachment for same-sex marriage support possible?

Attorney General Kathleen Kane

Attorney General Kathleen Kane

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe made more noise this week when he sent out a legislative memo saying he wants to impeach Attorney General Kathleen Kane for not defending the state’s anti-same-sex marriage law.

Earlier this summer, when the ACLU brought a lawsuit against the state, Kane claimed she would not defend the state’s Defense of Marriage Act because she believed it wholly unconstitutional”—much to the joy of liberals and LGBT-rights-supporters the state and country over.

“[B]ut making such a public statement that hinders the defense of the litigation violates the ethics rules that all attorneys are bound to follow,” writes Metcalfe (R-Butler) in his memo. “Attorney General Kane’s violation of her constitutional, statutory, and ethical duties cannot be tolerated if our system of government is to work properly.”

Kane will not be impeached. And even if, by some stretch of the imagination she were, she will not be convicted. But let’s say it happened. Say she was impeached. How would that whole thing unfold?

First off, it should be noted that impeachment rarely happens, especially for high-profile public servants like Kane. And when it does occur, it’s usually an ordeal no one really wants, and rarely done for the purposes it’s supposed to serve.

“It’s two fold,” says Dr. Randall Miller, a professor of American Studies at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “One is to deal with officials who have committed crimes and to remove them from office … The second purpose is political. Even if you don’t remove the person, [impeachment is meant] to embarrass the person publicly, make this a public statement and bring the person before the public in disrepute, if you will.”

So, remember Clinton’s impeachment? That was political. In order to remove someone from office, the House has to pass the resolution by a majority, and the Senate has to follow suit with two-thirds of its members to convict the impeached of whatever crimes s/he’s committed, and remove her from office.

The Pennsylvania constitution works similar to how the U.S. constitution does. Like impeachment at the national level, there needs “the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present” of the Senate to remove a public official from office in Pennsylvania.

That would mean 34 Senators voting to convict Kane (there are 50 seats in the Pennsylvania senate). And to achieve that, there’d need to be seven Democrats on board to convict Kane (assuming all Republicans were in favor, which is unlikely) — and that is extremely unlikely, especially considering the state’s Democratic platform includes the support of marriage equality. And Kane merely chose not to defend the state law — not to obstruct the defense of it, or anything like that.

If she were impeached, convicted and removed from office, Gov. Tom Corbett would nominate someone for the office, and present that person to the senate, who have 25 legislative days to act.

Democrats have been rallying to Kane in the wake of the impeachment threat, which is often the case when Metcalfe does something publicly. Because let’s be honest, speaking out against the Butler County Republican is just good politics.

“Republican leaders in Harrisburg have our state going in reverse on everything from social issues to economic development,” former DEP Secretary, and current gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty said in a press release. “Actions like this aren’t just insulting to our residents, they are damaging to our reputation and harmful to our efforts to attract and lure business.”

Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso

4 Responses to “ Explained: Is Kane’s impeachment for same-sex marriage support possible? ”

  1. bob dobolino says:

    Isn’t it the Attorney General’s job to enforce the law? Or is it to selectively enforce the law?

  2. Kieren McDonald says:

    I’m fine with gay marriage, but each government official cannot be free to decide which laws to nullify based on personal beliefs (see the New Hope mayor for the right way to handle it). I think Kane did violate all of those ethical, statutory, etc., duties, and impeachment would not be inappropriate.

    It is ridiculous how it has become almost the baseline status quo for the zealots on both sides of the spectrum to think they are free to ignore or obstruct the standing law of the land using extraordinary measures outside the longstanding civil procedures we have to challenge or change them lawfully.

  3. A Person says:

    >Isn’t it the Attorney General’s job to enforce the law? Or is it to selectively enforce the law?

    It’s also her duty as a US citizen to participate in civil disobedience when the state legislature is a bunch of fucking religious wackjobs, bent on keeping us in the past.

  4. Kierenmcd McDonald says:

    If it was her “duty” to ignore the law and her job as AG, then you can’t complain when every “fucking religious wackjob” in government claims it’s his/her “duty” to subvert the laws they have fundamental moral or religious reasons for opposing, like gay marriage, prayer in schools, abortion, you name it.

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