After a federal court struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage yesterday, it was widely assumed that Gov. Tom Corbett (R), a fierce opponent of equal marriage rights, would appeal the ruling, leaving some ambiguity as to the future of state law.
Today, however, the Republican governor decided to simply walk away from the fight.
Gov. Corbett on Wednesday announced he would not appeal the federal court ruling that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.In a statement, the governor repeated his personal opposition to same-sex marriage but said his administration lawyers had concluded that an appeal of Tuesday’s historic decision was “extremely unlikely” to succeed.
To be sure, the governor’s statement made clear that he still doesn’t believe same-sex couples should be able to get legally married, but Corbett no longer sees the value in keeping the fight alive.
And just like that, the fight in the nation’s sixth-largest state over marriage equality is finished, and as of this afternoon, every Northeastern state now extends marriage rights to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation.
The context surrounding this resolution is worth appreciating in detail.
Corbett didn’t just oppose marriage equality, he did so in an often brazen, offensive way. It was this Republican governor, for example, whose administration equated marriage licenses for same-sex couples with marriage licenses for “12-year-olds,” and soon after, Corbett himself compared marriage equality with incest.
For him to simply walk away from this fight, confident that appeals would fail, says quite a bit about the nature of the larger dispute.
What’s more, for all the talk about this being a center-right nation, note that when a Republican is deeply concerned about losing a statewide race – Corbett is the nation’s most vulnerable GOP governor this year – he moves quickly to the left.
In Pennsylvania’s case, the governor has recently given up on a discriminatory voter-ID law that he used to support, became the first Republican governor to buck his party on food-stamp cuts; threw his support behind a state-based ENDA law to prevent anti-gay discrimination in the workplace; and today, walked away from the marriage equality fight.
We’ll know soon enough whether this improves Corbett’s political standing, but the fact that a Republican governor in a swing state moves to the left when he’s worried about losing speaks volumes.