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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) In Pennsylvania

Part 8: Whitewood v. Wolf lawsuit:
More positive reactions to legalization
of SSM. Governor Corbett (R) throws
in the towel.

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This topic is continued from a previous essay.

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thumb up image2014-MAY-21: More positive reactions to marriage (Cont'd):

  • The staff at the Human Rights Campaign commented:

    "In July of 2013, state attorney general Kathleen Kane announced she would not defend the state’s marriage ban.  If PA Gov. Tom Corbett decides not to appeal today’s ruling, the Keystone State would become the nineteenth state with marriage equality, plus Washington, D.C.  With Pennsylvania, nearly 44 percent of Americans would live in states where gay and lesbian couples can legally marry. ..."

    "The ACLU along with organizations and groups from around the state are hosting Decision Day rallies across Pennsylvania in support of marriage equality." 1

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) who refused to defend the SSM ban in 2013-JUL, was pleased at the ruling. She said:

    "Inequality in any form is unacceptable and it has never stood the test of time. I have remained steadfast in my decision not to defend Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act because I made a legal determination as to the unconstitutionality of this law. I am pleased that a learned legal mind such as Judge Jones ruled similarly." 2

  • A lawyer for the Plaintiffs, Mark Aronchick, said:

    "I have overwhelming joy and immense respect for an elegantly written opinion by an exceptionally good judge who took his time to really develop in crystal-clear language why this civil rights issue of our day should be resolved with full dignity and respect for same-sex couples and their children." 2

  • Robert Barnes, writing for the Washington Post, said:

    "The headlines are so consistent, they could be written by a computer: 'Judge strikes down state ban on gay marriage.'

    But the federal judges who have supplied an unbroken wave of victories across the country to supporters of same-sex marriage are more diverse than their rulings would suggest: white and black, gay and straight, nominated by Democrats (most of them) and chosen by Republicans (a few of them)." 5

To which he could have added: "female and male."

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2014-APR-21: Governor Corbett (R) makes a difficult decision:

An article in the Box Turtle Bulletin on MAY-21, -- the day after the District Court's ruling -- said that the:

"... ruling by a Federal District Judge declaring the state’s laws against same-sex marriage unconstitutional has really put Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in a no-win position. ... Recent polling already puts Corbett’s approval ratings in the 20s and 30s, and he trails Democratic businessman Tom Wolf, who handily won yesterday’s primary. With recent polling showing that Pennsylvanians approve of marriage equality by a 57 to 37 percent margin, any attempt to reverse yesterday’s ruling and putting a stop to those joyous wedding photos will likely hurt his approval ratings even more. On the other hand, if he throws in the towel, he runs the risk of losing his conservative base, which he’s clearly making a play for today when he kicks off his re-election campaign ... No matter which course he chooses, his already uphill battle for re-election appears to have gotten much steeper." 9

Later that day, breaking news articles in Equality Pennsylvania, the Los Angeles Times, and other media announced that Governor Corbett (R) had decided to neither appeal the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Hon. John E. Jones III to the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals, nor seek a stay. He reluctantly accepted the ruling of the court as final.

Governor Corbett issued a statement saying:

"I have thoroughly reviewed Judge Jones’ opinion in the Whitewood [v. Wolf] 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.

As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not w​​avered. I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is [a voluntary union intended only] 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." 7

Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) has confirmed her past position that she will not defend the state's same-sex marriage ban because of its unconstitutionality.

Although other state officials could conceivably try to file appeals or requests for stays, it is likely that they would lack standing to do so.

As expected, reactions to Governor Corbett's decision were mixed:

  • National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is a national organization solely devoted to resisting marriage equality everywhere in the U.S. On the day of the District Court's ruling, NOM president, Brian Brown, urged that Governor Corbett's administration appeal the District Court ruling immediately. He wrote:

    "We know from the stay granted in the case in Utah that the Supreme Court believes these matters should be thoroughly debated and legally argued, and that there is nothing ‘inevitable' about marriage redefinition. The administration owes it to the people of Pennsylvania to pursue this matter vigorously through the court system, and give marriage the defense it requires and deserves. This is especially true in Pennsylvania, where the people have already seen the insult of the Attorney General abandoning her oath of office and refusing to defend [opposite-sex] marriage. The administration stepped in to right that wrong in this case, and we urge them to continue to render justice by providing a defense of Pennsylvania's marriage laws." 8

    Brown may misunderstand the nature of the oath of office sworn to by both the Governor and the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. It includes a committment to obey the federal Constitution. Over a dozen federal District Court judges have ruled on SSM bans during the previous 11 months, in over a dozen states. They have unanimously determined that the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution require states to allow same-sex couples to marry. Thus, if the Governor or Attorney General were to defend Pennsylvania's marriage ban, it is very likely that they would be violating their oath of office.

Responding to Governor Corbett's decision to not appeal the case and to not request a stay, NOM responded:

"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! [Opposite-sex] 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." 10

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. HRC Staff, "BREAKING: Ban on Marriage Equality Struck Down in Pennsylvania," Human Rights Campaign, 2014-MAY-20, at:
  2. Ivey DeJesus, "Ban on gay marriage struck down in Pennsylvania: A look at voices and opinions," Patriot News, 2014-MAY-20, at:
  3. "BREAKING: Gov. Corbett will not appeal!," Equality Pennsylvania, 2014-MAY-21, at:
  4. TRT Editor, "Victory: PA Governor Corbett declines to appeal, PA marriage ruling stands," The Rainbow Times Mass., 2014-MAY-21, at:
  5. Robert Barnes, "From a diverse group of judges, a unanimous opinion on same-sex marriage," Washington Post, 2014-MAY-26, at:
  6. Julianne Mattera, "Gay marriage in Pa.: Same-sex couples feel mixture of joy, disbelief and destiny following marriage ceremonies," The Patriot-News, 2014-MAY-25, at:
  7. "librarisingnsf," "NOM Urges Governor Corbett To Appeal Ruling Granting Marriage Equality In PA; Gov. Decides Not To," Daily Kos, 2014-MAY-21, at:
  8. Brian Brown, "National Organization for Marriage Condemns Decision by Pennsylvania Judge to Redefine Marriage and Urges Governor Corbett’s Administration to Appeal Ruling Immediately." National Organization for Marriage, 2014-MAY-20, at:
  9. Jim Burroway, "The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, May 21," Box Turtle Bulletin, 2014-MAY-21, at:
  10. "National Organization for Marriage Sharply Criticizes Decision by PA Governor Tom Corbett to Decline Appeal of Latest Anti-Marriage Decision," National Organization for Marriage, 2013-MAY-21, at:

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2014-MAY-21
Latest update: 2014-MAY-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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