Four Issues in Van Hollen’s Refusal to Defend the State on Domestic Partner Protections

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With Attorney General JB Van Hollen announcing last week he is refusing to perform the duties for which he was elected, four critical considerations must be made in judging his decision:

1. This is the opposite of what Van Hollen asserted during the campaign. When Van Hollen was defending the marriage amendment, he said it wouldn’€™t apply to domestic partnerships. In a press release from the 2006 campaign, Van Hollen wrote: ‘€œThe Legislature or the governing body of a political subdivision or local governmental unit is not precluded from authorizing or requiring that a right or benefit traditionally associated with marriage be extended to two or more unmarried individuals; for example, family health insurance benefits, certain probate rights, or the ability to file joint tax returns.’€ He added, ‘€œBut it’€™s also clear that if elected [my opponent] intends to interpret the laws as she sees fit instead of executing the role of attorney general.’€ Doesn’€™t Van Hollen’€™s legal flip flop compromise his and the Department of Justice’€™s credibility?

2. This is another example of Van Hollen politicizing the Department of Justice. Van Hollen, co-chair of the Republican presidential campaign in Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Republican Party of Wisconsin which could have un-registered hundreds of thousands voters. Open records requests filed by the news media uncovered that Van Hollen filed the suit after contact between the Department of Justice and the Republican Party of Wisconsin. In refusing to defend the state in the domestic partner protection case, Van Hollen is siding with conservative allies who filed the lawsuit. Is Van Hollen looking to his re-election campaign in 2010 instead of doing the job in which he was elected?

3. Hiring outside counsel to defend the state will be costly to the taxpayers of Wisconsin. One of the most recent examples of the state having to obtain counsel outside of the Department of Justice came with at least a $1.2 million legal bill. Van Hollen complained any cuts to DOJ would hurt law enforcement ‘€“ and now by shirking his duties he’€™s going to make the state waste tax dollars. How much will taxpayers have to pay because Van Hollen refuses to do his job.

4. The non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Council previously opined that the marriage amendment would not preclude the state from creating domestic partner protections. Van Hollen himself cited this memo to attack his 2006 opponent, who said the amendment could threaten domestic partner protections. The Legislative Council has not changed its opinion about the legality of domestic partner protections under the amendment. Why was the Legislative Council correct then according to Van Hollen, but wrong now?

These are vital questions that need to be asked of the Attorney General. Otherwise, there is no accountability for his actions, which are: contradictory to statements he previously made, further politicizing the Department of Justice, destined to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars and legally suspect given previous memoranda Van Hollen himself cited, which indicate legal support for domestic partner protections.

Getting answers from Attorney General Van Hollen on these critical issues is essential for the people of Wisconsin.

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