Brad Schimel, a Republican candidate running for Wisconsin Attorney General, went on an Oshkosh cable access program and declared that if he had been AG sixty years ago, he would have defended the state’s ban on interracial marriage, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“You’re not worried about being on the wrong side of history” on the issue of gay marriage, co-host Tony Palmeri asked. He then quoted Ronald Reagan appointee Richard Posner, who said that “‘it was a tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry, a tradition that got swept away [and] prohibition of same-sex marriage is a tradition of hate and savage discrimination.’ Do you think Posner was wrong?”
After Schimel dodged the question by saying that, “Posner may have had a different view at a different time, I don’t know,” Palmeri rephrased the question, asking “if you had been attorney general in, say, the 1950s, in a state that did not allow interracial marriage, do you think the proper role of an attorney general then was to not put himself or herself into the mix and say this is wrong?”
“Yeah,” Schimel replied, “it is.”
“Your job is to uphold the law, even if it’s something that we might look back in the future and say that’s absurd?” Palmeri asked.
“It might be distasteful to me,” Schimel said. “I’ve got to stay consistent with that. As the state’s lawyer, it’s not my job to pick and choose.”
Wisconsin Democrats were quick to attack Schimel. State Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said that “I think what it reveals to me is an absence of something that is core to this position [of attorney general] and that is to stand up to the Legislature and governor when they trample on people’s constitutional rights.”
His opponent in the AG race, Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, said that “I am sworn to enforce the law, but also to uphold the constitution. There is a place for independent judgment by the attorney general. Apparently, Brad Schimel disagrees.”
Schimel’s campaign released a statement on Wednesday that read “[l]ove and the law are colorblind, as they should be. Many shameful, racist laws were changed over the course of time in this country by legislators, the courts and the people’s direct votes. But if Susan Happ wants to make up new laws, or change old ones, she’s running for the wrong job.”
“To suggest Brad is opposed to interracial marriages is absurd and reeks of desperation,” the statement continued. “He answered a question about the role of the attorney general. It is not the role of the attorney general to make laws or modify laws or ignore laws. The attorney general enforces the law. Of course he is glad that the laws regarding race and race relations have changed over the years.”