Pennsylvania's Republican Gov. Tom Corbett decided not to challenge a federal judge's ruling overturning his state's same-sex marriage ban after an "immense struggle" due to "his religious beliefs based on his Catholic upbringing and teachings," an aide says.
"The governor personally struggled immensely with this decision," Corbett's chief of staff, Leslie Gromis Baker, tells Philly.com. "Prior to the opinion being released, the governor was conflicted between his personal and religious beliefs based on his Catholic upbringing and teachings, and the legal arguments that were made in Judge Jones' opinion."
"Given the high legal threshold set forth by Judge Jones in this case, the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal," Corbett said in a statement Wednesday, the day after Judge John E. Jones III overturned the state's 1996 law defining marriage as between men and women.
"Therefore, after review of the opinion and on the advice of my Commonwealth legal team, I have decided not appeal," said Corbett, who's just won the GOP's primary in pursuit of a re-election bid. He added though that he personally believes "that marriage is between one man and one woman."
When the ruling came, Corbett was preparing to be re-nominated, the governor's aides were quoted as saying. After the primary-night party in Pittsburgh, Corbett took home the judgment and read it several times.
Judge Jones concluded in the 39-page decision, "That same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of 'separate but equal.'"
Pennsylvania's Attorney General Kathleen Kane has also stated that she will not defend the gay marriage ban due to "the unconstitutionality of this law."
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, sharply criticized Corbett.
"Marriage is a unique public good that deserves a vigorous defense; however Governor Corbett has refused to step up to the task, and chosen instead to defend himself and his political aspirations," Brown said in a statement. "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!"
Federal judges in many states have struck down state amendments and laws banning same-sex marriage as unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court last June squashed a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. They have revoked bans also in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia, and ordered Kentucky and Tennessee to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. However, in many cases, stays have been issued pending appeals.
Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in 19 states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – and the District of Columbia.