ATLANTA — Georgia’s gay-marriage ban has become an issue in the race for attorney general as the two candidates spar over whether to defend the law against court challenges.

Democratic hopeful Greg Hecht says he won’t defend it because 25 courts around the country have declared similar laws unconstitutional. He blasted Republican incumbent Sam Olens for arguing on behalf of the law in a lawsuit, saying instead the attorney general should have used his office to prosecute child abuse because of the number who have died after having had some contact with the Division of Family and Children Services.

“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,” he said Sunday during a debate organized by the Atlanta Press Club.

Olens replied that he is obligated to represent the state and defend its laws unless the U.S. Supreme Court or the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which has jurisdiction over Georgia rules a law unconstitutional. Since neither has weighed in on the state’s same-sex-marriage ban, he is bound to defend it. He also refused to say whether he personally agrees with the law.

“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.”
Olens accused Hecht of changing his position on the issue for political reasons. Hecht opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions seven years ago when he ran unsuccessfully 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.
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