HARRISBURG, PA — With Gov. Tom Corbett saying he will not defend the Pennsylvania’s law that bans same-sex marriage, Pennsylvania becomes the 19th state to effectively recognize same sex marriage.
On May 20, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III struck down Pennsylvania’s law because he ruled it was unconstitutional.
The next day Corbett issued a statement, saying, “I have thoroughly reviewed Judge Jones’ opinion in the Whitewood case. Given the high legal threshold set forth by Judge Jones in this case, the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal. Therefore, after review of the opinion and on the advice of my Commonwealth legal team, I have decided not to appeal Judge Jones’ decision.”
He continued, “As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered. I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. My duties as governor require that I follow the laws as interpreted by the courts and make a judgment as to the likelihood of a successful appeal.”
The statement marks a bit of a retreat for the governor, who in October stirred up a bit of controversy by comparing same-sex marriage to incest.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane more than a year ago said she would not defend the Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act in court because she also viewed it as unconstitutional.
Gay marriage supporters in Harrisburg reacted positively to the federal court’s decision. Rep. Steve McCarter said, “A majority of Pennsylvanians support marriage equality, and we’re the only Northeast state that does not grant equal rights to our LGBT citizens. We strive to attract the best and brightest residents to Pennsylvania to live in our communities and enhance our economy, and by illegally disenfranchising an entire group of people by saying that when you cross into Pennsylvania from New York, Maryland or Delaware you lose certain rights, we irrevocably harm Pennsylvania’s appeal.”
Sen. Daylin Leach said, “In 2009, I introduced Pennsylvania’s first marriage equality bill and everyone said this was a hopeless cause. I knew it was the moral dilemma of our time and I must fight every day until justice prevailed. Public polling demonstrates that the majority of Americans support marriage equality. I am proud to know that same-sex couples that would like to marry or have married will now be treated equally under the law.”
On the other side of the issue, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, took issue with Corbett’s decision not to appeal the ruling. He wrote on his blog, “Governor Corbett is abandoning marriage with this choice. He is also turning his back on the people of Pennsylvania and selling out his principles precisely when it is most necessary that he stand by them!”
There are about 70 marriage equality cases working their way through the courts, and more states are likely to join Pennsylvania in the near future.