The Wisconsin attorney general’s race was recently roiled by some unexpected comments: Republican Brad Schimel said “he would have reluctantly defended a ban on interracial marriage had he been attorney general in the 1950s.”
It’s not that Schimel supports prohibition against interracial marriage, it’s just that he believes a state A.G. has to fight to uphold all state laws, whether the laws have merit or not. “It might be distasteful to me … but I’ve got to stay consistent with that,” he said. “As the state’s lawyer, it’s not my job to pick and choose.”
Democrats blasted Schimel, though it appears the Republicans’ gubernatorial nominee in Texas missed the story entirely.
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is vigorously defending Texas’ same-sex marriage ban in court, says he’s unsure whether he would have defended a similar prohibition on interracial marriage had he been in office 50 years ago.“Right now, if there was a ban on interracial marriage, that’s already been ruled unconstitutional,” Abbott told the San Antonio Express-News editorial board. ”And all I can do is deal with the issues that are before me … The job of an attorney general is to represent and defend in court the laws of their client, which is the state Legislature, unless and until a court strikes it down.”
Political reporter Peggy Fikac, added, “When I said I wasn’t clear if he [Abbott] was saying he would have defended a ban on interracial marriage, he said, ‘Actually, the reason why you’re uncertain about it is because I didn’t answer the question. And I can’t go back and answer some hypothetical question like that.’”
Why has this question become so difficult?
I can understand the principal at hand here. Neither Abbott nor Schimel have suggested – in any way – that bans on interracial marriage should be permissible. Full stop.
That said, it seems the question has two fairly obvious possible answers. The first is, “If I were in state government at the time, I would have fought to scrap all racially discriminatory laws.”
The second is, “I would have resigned as state attorney general rather than defend racially discriminatory laws.”
There are tough questions politicians are sometimes pressed to answer. This really shouldn’t be one of them.