Governor Tom Corbett will not be blocking the aisles at same-sex marriages.
He won’t be raising an objection during the ceremonies.
On Wednesday, the governor announced he would not appeal Tuesday’s ruling from Judge John Jones that struck down as unconstitutional Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage.
Same-sex couples had nervously celebrated on Tuesday because they worried that Corbett, as has happened in other states, would appeal Jones’ ruling. That could cause a stay and trigger more courtroom fights and stop them from getting married as the court fight continued.
They can now breathe easy and move forward with their wedding plans.
Corbett issued a statement and conceded that he and his legal team decided the state wasn’t likely to win an appeal so they wouldn’t pursue one, but he also made clear that he doesn’t personally agree with Jones’ decision.
The statement said, in part: “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.”
In the end, the Corbett team didn’t think its appeal would be successful. After all, the Supreme Court tipped its hand last fall when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.
State taxpayers have already spent $600,000 defending Pennsylvania’s ban. Would spending more money on a likely losing case be fiscally prudent?
Conservatives complained that Jones usurped the power of the legislature, that one man waved a wand and superseded the work of elected representatives. But Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who refused last summer to defend the Pennsylvania law, said that’s the checks and balances of the judicial branch.
“The judge said, ‘well, you’re wrong,’ and that’s how our system of democracy works and that’s the way it’s supposed to work,” Kane said.
Kane was harshly criticized by some for shirking her constitutional responsibilities and refusing to defend the gay marriage ban. She admitted during a Wednesday interview in her Harrisburg office that she loved Jones’ ruling.
“It was an historic moment yesterday in Pennsylvania and I hope that people feel the enormity of it,” Kane said. “And I hope they feel that the justice system does work because it may not be you today, but what if it’s you tomorrow? Inequality in any form is just intolerable.”
The legal community in Harrisburg was abuzz Wednesday in the aftermath of Jones’ ruling. David Fine, an appeals lawyer at K & LALGaAKes, said same-sex couples still have a broader fight ahead.
“They will, in fact, have to have at least one of these state statutes go before the U.S. Supreme Court and probably next year,” Fine said.
Pennsylvania has decided not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling, but many states have and their same-sex couples are in limbo. That’s messy and it will take the Supreme Court to clean it up, Fine suspects.
“Because there are too many cases out there and there’s a need for uniformity,” Fine said.
In Pennsylvania, there’s no uniformity of opinion on the controversial topic of same-sex marriage. But there is now uniformity of law: gay couples in the Commonwealth are free to marry.
The governor concluded his statement with a call for compassion on all sides.
“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,” he said.