Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens says he'll cringe if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage across the country this summer, then advise state agencies to get in line and follow the law. How nice. 

The comments from Olens came Wednesday during a breakfast klatch with the Atlanta Press Club. From the AJC:

“We’re going to advise all those agencies that have policy roles to immediately follow the law. I cringe just as much when an attorney general seeks to defy the law as anyone else. When the U.S. Supreme Court rules, it’s not time for criticism or banter. It’s time for the lawyer to play lawyer.”

How comforting. The state's probate judges – the ones who will issue marriage licenses to gay couples – are already on board. So is pretty much everyone else.

But don't think that means Olens has softened his position on keeping the state's gay marriage ban in place. He hasn't. His briefs in the lawsuit challenging Georgia's ban offer a mocking response to arguments that it should be overturned. Olens even refused to meet with LGBT activists and families demanding that he drop his defense of the marriage ban.

On Wednesday – the chat with journalists came on the first anniversary of the filing of the legal challenge in Georgia – Olens was also unequivocal about defending Georgia’s gay marriage ban. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in four gay marriage cases and could issue a decision in late June that would legalize same-sex marriage across the nation.

“I disagree 100% with those state attorney generals who decided they were part of the judicial branch and not the executive branch,” said Olens. “I think it’s frankly both inconsistent with the constitution and the laws of the country when state attorneys general want to call balls and strikes.”

In the meantime, Olens is doing everything he can with his vast array of legal tools to lobby the court against legalizing gay marriage. He was among attorneys general from 15 states who filed a brief in early April telling the Supreme Court to butt out of the gay marriage debate to avoid doing "incalculable damage to our civic life." 

The Constitution takes no sides on same-sex marriage, and therefore leaves the issue up to the free deliberations of state citizens. The fact that Americans have reached different conclusions about this novel question is not a sign of a constitutional crisis that requires correction by this Court. It is rather a sign that our Constitution is working as it should. In our federal system, this issue must be resolved by the "formation of consensus" at the state level. To resolve it instead through federal judicial decree would demean the democratic process, marginalize the views of millions of Americans, and do incalculable damage to our civic life in this country.

It's all about precedent you see, Olens and the other lawyers argue.

The first casualty of a decision constitutionalizing same-sex marriage would be the coherence of this Court’s precedent, which just last term emphatically reaffirmed the 12 authority of States to decide this very question on the basis of democratic deliberation. Although they avoid saying so, the plaintiffs ask this Court to jettison the underpinnings of that precedent and the two centuries of historical practice that undergird it. The Court should decline that invitation.

The attorneys general also argue in the brief that simply opposing "to adopt the novel institution of same-sex marriage" doesn't make them "irrational, ignorant or bigoted."

A decision from this Court constitutionalizing the issue, however, would erase the benefits of that wise course. Inevitably, it would validate in the public mind the numerous decisions that have characterized this issue, not as a debate between good people on either side, but as a battle between those who love individual freedom and those who cling blindly to tradition. That would do incalculable damage to our civic life in this country.

So that's Olens in a nutshell: He'll follow a gay marriage edict from the Supreme Court. But when he cringes, it's not that he's a bigot but a good person who wants to cling blindly to tradition.

[AJC | Georgia Tip Sheet | Joe My God | USA Today]