Politics

Gay-Marriage Lawsuit Puts Pennsylvania Governor in Bind

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who’s suffering from low approval ratings and has a tough reelection battle looming next year, is facing yet another politically difficult decision: whether or not to stand up for the Keystone State’s same-sex marriage ban.
July 12, 2013

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who’s suffering from low approval ratings and has a tough reelection battle looming next year, is facing yet another politically difficult decision: whether or not to stand up for the Keystone State’s same-sex marriage ban.

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, said Thursday that she wouldn’t defend the ban in court — raising the issue on a state level for the first time since the Supreme Court ruled against the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the first known legal challenge to Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act in Harrisburg earlier this week, naming Corbett, Kane and three other state officials as defendants. The suit argues that Pennsylvania’s law violates a fundamental right to marry and also goes against the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Since Kane has declined to defend the law, the responsibility falls to Corbett to decide what to do. Pennsylvania General Counsel James D. Schultz said in a statement Thursday afternoon that Corbett’s office “will continue to review the lawsuit” — and took a swipe at Kane.

“We are surprised that the Attorney General, contrary to her constitutional duty under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, has decided not to defend a Pennsylvania statute lawfully enacted by the General Assembly, merely because of her personal beliefs,” Schultz said.

Corbett faces a rock-and-hard place decision. If he opts to defend the law — he’s expressed support for it in the past — Corbett will draw ire from a Democratic base that already despises him. If he chooses not to defend it, he risks alienating the members of his own party he needs for reelection next year.

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