GOP Gov. Tom Corbett will not appeal Pennsylvania gay marriage ruling

Photo: Tom Corbett. Credit. Governor's Office.

Photo: Tom Corbett. Credit. Governor’s Office.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett announced Wednesday that he will not appeal a federal judge’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. 

“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,” Corbett said in a statement.

Corbett’s decision comes one day after U.S. District Court Judge John Jones found Pennsylvania law defining marriage as between a man and a woman in violation of both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision is the latest in a string of federal and state court wins for same-sex marriage following last June’s sweeping U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor — striking down the federal government’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Since then, federal courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Oregon. Jones was appointed to the federal bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

Pennsylvania was the only Northeastern state to not permit same-sex marriage nor civil unions for same-sex couples. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, announced two weeks after the Windsor decision that she would not defend the state’s 1996 law prohibiting same-sex marriage, thus leaving Corbett to defend to law. With Corbett’s decision today, Pennsylvania becomes the 19th state, plus D.C., to legalize same-sex marriage.

“As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered,” Corbett continued. “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.

“Throughout the debate on this important and meaningful issue, I have maintained that Commonwealth officials and agencies would follow the provisions of Pennsylvania’s marriage law unless or until a court says otherwise. The court has spoken, and I will ensure that my administration follows the provisions of Judge Jones’ order with respect for all parties.

“It is my hope that as the important issue of same-sex relationships continues to be addressed in our society, that all involved be treated with respect.”

The case that ushered in marriage equality in Pennsylvania was filed in July by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 11 same-sex couples, a widow and the two teenage children of one of the couples. 

“This is a milestone for our movement,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a statement. “It reinforces the reality that this isn’t a partisan issue. It’s about fundamental fairness and dignity for all people, including lesbians and gay men.”

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's political editor and White House correspondent. He can be reached at jsnow@metroweekly.com.

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