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Pennsylvania marriage equality case won’t be appealed

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has announced that there will be no appeal of the district court ruling in Whitewood v. Wolf striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Governor Corbett’s statement reads:

“I have thoroughly reviewed Judge Jones’ opinion in the Whitewood 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 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.”

Judge John E. Jones, a nominee of President George W. Bush, struck down the ban yesterday.

UPDATE: Buzzfeed spoke to the ACLU, who said there is no one who could appeal the case; according to their comments, the other named defendant signed a stipulation in late 2013 that prevents him from appealing.

82 Comments

  • 1. jpmassar  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Just because he isn't going to appeal it doesn't necessarily mean the actual defendant, the Secretary of the Dept. of Health, isn't going to appeal it. Yeah, it seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. This should be clarified. Meanwhile we can celebrate!

  • 2. Steven  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    it won't be appeal………….

  • 3. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I think if the actual defendant would do that it would GREATLY harm Corbett. It would look like he was "going rogue" on him, and actually hurt his chances of re-election. It might help the defendant who appeals, but not the party as a whole on Election Day.

  • 4. Scottie Thomaston  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    His statement says "… I will ensure that my administration follows the provisions of Judge Jones’ order with respect for all parties."

  • 5. Michael Grabow  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    This statement seems to cover that.

    "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."

  • 6. Rick  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Here's the real reason Corbett's not appealing:
    http://fox43.com/2014/05/21/auditor-general-corbe….

    "According to state Treasury records released today, since June 2013 the Corbett Administration has spent at least $588,000 tax dollars for outside legal counsel in an attempt to maintain a ban same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania."

    So Corbett won't appeal to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer money. Just one problem, and a great question for his campaign this fall: what about the $588,000 in taxpayer money you wasted to oppose marriage equality?

  • 7. DaveM  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Yeah no. The Secy of the Dept. of Health serves at Corbett's pleasure, and if he were to file an appeal on his own he'd find himself pounding the pavement the next day, and the suit withdrawn by the acting Secretary.

  • 8. jpmassar  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Ahhh. That does seem to pretty much suggest such, although an appeal doesn't really have anything to do with "following the provisions of the order." You can follow the provisions and still appeal.

  • 9. Jae  |  May 21, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Well, looks like a done deal in PA Congratulations on the Win….Smart move on Corbetts part.

  • 10. Retired_Lawyer  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Wow, just wow! I don't know of anyone who thought there would be no appeal in Pennsylvania. How soon do you think it will take NOM to try to intervene?

  • 11. Scottie Thomaston  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I just checked to make sure, based on your comment, and no one is reporting the news differently. So if my interpretation is wrong it pretty much means everyone else's is. That's possible obviously, but since the AG isn't defending the ban and the defense involved the governor hiring outside counsel, I assume that if he's not willing to do that anymore it would mean that there can't be an appeal from anyone.

  • 12. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    This may sound naive, but part of me thinks Corbett is actually pro-equality in his personal opinion. Sort of like Obama in 2007.

  • 13. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    The assumption seems to have been that though Corbett wasn't a named defendant, he has directed the defense of the case. Perhaps he wasn't a "proper" defendant in terms of how Pennsylvania structures its distribution of marriage licenses? Unlike in California or Oregon, where the clerks answer to the AG & Gov? At any rate, it'd look real bad if there's an appeal of this case now.

  • 14. sfbob  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    If their standing in Oregon seemed tenuous, it's even more so in Pennslyvania. NOM didn't even exist when PA's statutory ban was passed in 1996. So who are they gonna claim to represent? Not that I wouldn't put it past them but as stupid as they are, I suspect they are at least having some piece of a thought that says "don't bother."

  • 15. Craig  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I think you may be right. I think PA tried some of the arguments without sounding homophobic and then got into one hell of a mess and realized it couldn't be done. I think there was a kind of soft pedaling and let's emphasize Baker and states' rights, but the only real arguments we have are a bit useless. The issue is becoming a political hot potato.

  • 16. Craig  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Maybe there are some cake makers living in PA… Just a thought…

  • 17. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Not to mention, you can't intervene in a case that's been decided. You just can't, it'd be ridiculous. At least in Oregon, they had their request in before the case was heard.

  • 18. Seth from Maryland  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    I KNEW IT , Corbett may or may not be for marriage equality but he is trouble in for relection , he trying to look moderate as possible and not look like a tea party member, if anyone watched the election primary last the tea-party got hammered

  • 19. Scottie Thomaston  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Apparently Buzzfeed spoke to the ACLU who told them that the named defendant signed a stipulation that he won't appeal. Just added that to my post.

  • 20. Johan  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Something like a cake maker suing Michael Sam for cake eating acts against the sincerely held religious beliefs of the baker. Acts that presumably damaged the sanctity of cream. (sorry, it was the cake reference by Craig that short circuited my brain)

  • 21. grod  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Wikipedia showing Pennsylvanian an equality state, noting "The Governor and Attorney General have separately announced that they will not appeal the decision".

  • 22. nightshayde  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I do so love reading good news!

  • 23. Seth from Maryland  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    so we are 19 strong now!!! WOW!! AMAZING!!! Oregon and Pennsylvania add a huge amount of ppl liveing under marriage equality

  • 24. Rose  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    So, Pennsylvania officially becomes the 19th State…..way to go!!!

    Next????

  • 25. Stefan  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Indeed. We're now at 43.5% in states with same-sex marriage and 61.2% including states with stayed rulings in our favor.

  • 26. Mr. E  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Add Montana to the list of states with marriage equality lawsuits! 😀 http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/gay-couples-ru

  • 27. Jae  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Hopefully the 4th Circuit..

  • 28. Jae  |  May 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    The Gov is for it does anyone know if the AG is for the ban or will defend it?

  • 29. Eric  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    But, they have no harm. They are free to refuse service to gays in PA on the basis of their sincerely held superstitious beliefs. Just as those same beliefs enable them to continue selling cakes to fornicators, adulterers, and gluttons.

  • 30. DrPatrick1  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Gov is in favor of marriage equality. Yay!

  • 31. sfbob  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Well there's that too. I'd forgotten about that little detail. NOM may be trying to find a way around it even as we speak.

  • 32. sfbob  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    The AG is a Republican. Not a slam-dunk he'd defend it but it seems far more likely. Montana Republicans tend to be pretty reactionary.

  • 33. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Well, we need to know who the named defendants are, and also consider if those are properly named. If Montana is structured like California & Oregon, then the Gov & AG should be the defendants. But it could be different, like Oklahoma or Virginia.

  • 34. Guest  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    The Montana AG, Republican Timothy C. Fox, joined in an amicus brief with several other state AGs in the Prop 8 case in support of "traditional marriage".

  • 35. Mike in Baltimore  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    This leaves just North Dakota without a state or Federal law suit directly or indirectly affecting ME?

  • 36. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    The lawsuit names state Attorney General Tim Fox, state revenue director Michael Kadas and Fay McWilliams, Cascade County clerk of court, as defendants.

  • 37. Guest  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    SD has not yet been filed, either…yet!

  • 38. FYoung  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Also, Oklahoma and Texas could be next, but we should brace ourselves for disappointment there.

  • 39. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Oklahoma is in the 10th Circuit with Utah (likely victory for us) while Texas is in the 5th Circuit (50-50/unsure).

  • 40. Big Rick  |  May 21, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Oklahoma is in the 10th circuit, along with Utah. Oklahoma will probably be decided at the same time as Utah, and probably both the same way. There were some unusual issues with Oklahoma involving the right parties to sue, however, so you never know. But since it was the 10th itself that created that problem, perhaps they'll take it upon themselves to deal with it.

    Texas is in the 5th circuit. I think they are the ones most likely to overturn a lower court ruling, in this case, the one by Judge Garcia in DeLeon v Perry.

  • 41. FYoung  |  May 21, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I'm sorry. I meant to say Utah and Oklahoma. that is, the 10th Circuit. I'm not confident of victory there.

    As for Texas, I would expect to lose there, but I wouldn't think that decision is imminent.

  • 42. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I think we'll win at the 10th Circuit, but there will be a stay and we have to see how SCOTUS acts.

  • 43. Fr. Bill  |  May 21, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    For fiscal conservatives who believe in limited government they sure know how to spend taxpayer money trying to run other peoples' intimate private lives.

  • 44. weaverbear  |  May 21, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    So folks, a small piece of history here. Pennsylvania was the first state to remove interracial marriage prohibitions – some 189 years before Loving. I'm thrilled with the court's decision and even happier with the news that Corbett won't appeal. So we're now firmly at 19 + DC and that number is only going to increase with time.

  • 45. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    So is Pennsylvania's marriage equality truly equality, without an ENDA? Can't businesses there still pick and choose which marriages they want to recognize for benefits purposes?

  • 46. LK2014  |  May 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    True, more work to do there.

  • 47. LK2014  |  May 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Great news! I'm sure that this is all about the upcoming election – just like Christie. But I'll take it!

  • 48. Ragavendran  |  May 21, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Hopefully the Department of Health will quickly respond to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that it has no objections to slashing off the ropes that hold back Montgomery County's Bruce Hanes:

    In the wake of Tuesday's ruling, county officials asked the state Supreme Court to lift the stay, said county Commissioner Leslie Richards. Instead, the court gave the Department of Health a week to respond.

    http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/682

  • 49. Warren  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Another Republican governor who happens to be an attorney too realize that the fight is over. Slowly but surely the conservatives will realize that Equality includes homosexuals.

  • 50. Naomi  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Ahhhh!!!!! SO HAPPY. Last night I had scotch and ice cream to celebrate. Tonight I will have more of the same :)

  • 51. JayJonson  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Well, who would pay for the appeal? Corbett has been using state money to pay for the defense of the marriage laws by outside counsel. I doubt that the Secretary of the Dept. of Health has the authority to appropriate state money for a defense.

  • 52. James  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Wouldn't complying with a federal court order take precedence over a state supreme court decree? Couldn't Montgomery county at this point just ignore the state supreme court and freely issue licenses?

  • 53. JayJonson  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    He claims that his personal opinion is that marriage is a union of one man and one woman for life. However, he wants to be reelected as Governor (which is not very likely), and polls show Pennsylvanians are in favor of marriage equality. He cannot be elected governor in Pennsyslvania without support from independents, who favor marriage equality. So I think he definitely does not want marriage equality as an issue in the campaign.

  • 54. JayJonson  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    I think I heard that the same attorney who is going to file in SD will also now likely file in ND as well.

  • 55. JayJonson  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Yes, but that was a contributing factor in Judge Jonses's ruling. He pointed out that Pennsylvania's legislature has repeatedly been hostile to gay people and accorded them no protections from discrimination. (The state had touted that a bill was filed in the legislature seeking gay rights, as though that indicated the legislature's friendliness toward gay people.)

  • 56. Ragavendran  |  May 21, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Not necessarily. State and federal court systems are parallel, and conflicting orders must be balanced on a case-by-case basis – there doesn't seem to be a general rule that I'm aware of. In this case, especially given that the State today conceded, it should be safe for him to start issuing licenses. But it might still be risky. I may be wrong, but it could be entirely within legal bounds for some wingnut out there to bring charges on him (maybe even have him arrested by state police?) for defying a state court order.

  • 57. FYoung  |  May 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Tenth Circuit win would certainly be nice. It would open up Colorado, for example, which seems to be late to the party given public opinion.

  • 58. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    I think he'll tread carefully. He knew it was risky issuing the licenses to begin with, may as well not push it further until he gets the all-clear.

  • 59. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Bills are filed and never passed. I hope marriage equality there will allow at least some of the GOP legislators to forget about their stubborn pushback to anything gay and vote in ENDA. It's been a theory that these types of legislators haven't wanted to vote for anything pro-gay for fear it would lead to marriage equality.

  • 60. Bruno71  |  May 21, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    I'm more sure about the swing vote on the 10th (Holmes) than the 4th (Floyd), but I think we'll win in both.

  • 61. Jenni  |  May 21, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    BREAKING: Brian Brown comes out as gay, caught sucking a cock in a bathroom in NYC.

  • 62. FYoung  |  May 21, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Can you provide a link?

  • 63. Dave  |  May 21, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Hello everyone! I've been a lurker on EOT for a few months now and I just want to say I'm so happy the progress we're making on marriage equality!

    According to NOM's blog Brian Brown is actually considering to intervene in the PA case.

  • 64. BillinNO  |  May 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Hmmm. Seems kind of late. That's sort of his style, I guess?

  • 65. maratreans  |  May 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    I doubt Gov. Corbett is intending to speak with legal precision here. He is summarising, in informal terms, what his legal team told him. Even when appelate review is de novo, the appelate court may well agree with Judge Jones' conclusions; I assume his lawyers told him that in their proffesional judgement success at the appelate level was unlikely. (Since Gov. Corbett is himself a lawyer, that may well also be his personal legal opinion.)

    It is an interesting question what would happen in the event that SCOTUS rejects a constitutional right to marriage equality. I think it is an unlikely event – I think, if they aren't ready to embrace it, they may seek to dodge the issue again (similar to what they did with Prop 8), rather than rejecting it outright. But, if that did come to pass, what would be the consequences for states with unappealed decisions in favour of same-sex marriage? New legal precedent applies to future and ongoing cases, but does not automatically reopen concluded cases. So I expect that same sex marriage would remain in those states with unappealed final judgements, unless someone commenced new litigation to try to reopen the matter, and I have some doubts whether anyone other than the executive authorities of the state (Governor or AG) would have standing to do so.

  • 66. SeattleRobin  |  May 21, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I would think that in states with concluded cases (nothing still on appeal) that they would need to take legislative or voter action to reinstate the bans or pass new ones. Existing marriages could not be voided because they were legal when solemnized, and that runs right up against due process, even without a recognized fundamental right to marry.

    The thing is though, public opinion has shifted so much since the bans were originally passed, that it would be difficult to redo them in all but the most conservative states.

  • 67. SeattleRobin  |  May 21, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Whoohoo for Pennsylvania! Wonderful to see another cleanly concluded case with no stay or appeal!

  • 68. GUest  |  May 22, 2014 at 2:06 am

    Seriously, can't we have these abusive comments removed???

  • 69. Retired_Lawyer  |  May 22, 2014 at 3:55 am

    Good Lord! I made a reference to a NOM intervention in PA earlier, but meant it as mere sarcasm. NOM tried to intervene in Geiger v, Kitzhaber in Oregon just as the case drew to a close. The only way to be less timely would be to intervene after a case is over. It goes to show that NOM cannot be satirized.

  • 70. Lymis  |  May 22, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Don't overlook the huge influence of same-sex marriages being federally recognized in ALL states.

  • 71. Lymis  |  May 22, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Wel, gosh, what a romantic view of marriage. But you seem to think your view implies a justification for banning same-sex marriage, when it's the reverse. If it is not about intimate private lives, but public conduct, there is no legitimate reason to exclude gay people from equal participation.

  • 72. Lymis  |  May 22, 2014 at 6:39 am

    I don't know that they can. It will depend on other laws.

    Before the laws in Illinois were changed, it was legal to discriminate against gay people in hiring, but you had to treat men and women equally. Companies were subject to fine and lawsuit if they fired gay men for being gay but retained lesbian women.

    I don't know Pennsylvania law, but it's possible that they will be equally subject to lawsuit for not treating all marriages equally. That they could fire the employee without repercussions, but if they retain the employee, they have to honor the marriage. Otherwise, there'd likely be cases where a religious employer refused to grant benefits to a civil marriage or remarriage in violation of their own religious beliefs.

  • 73. ebohlman  |  May 22, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Just a nasty bit of speculation, but: what would happen if there's an unfavorable ruling, either at the district or appellate level, in Palladino? It's in the Eastern District IIRC, whereas Whitewood was in the Middle District. What if there's a conflict between two districts?

  • 74. ebohlman  |  May 22, 2014 at 6:50 am

    IIRC, there would be a Federal tax issue if they didn't treat all marriages equally for benefit purposes, since benefits that aren't available to all similarly-situated employees (e.g. all full-timers) are considered perks and aren't tax-deductible to the employer (and may be taxable to the employee; the rule exists to keep companies from giving benefits only to highly-paid executives in order to reduce their tax burdens).

  • 75. JayJonson  |  May 22, 2014 at 6:52 am

    The Department of Health has asked the Court to lift the stay against Hanes. Presumbably Hanes will get the all-clear today. We should not forget his heroism in forcing the issue of marriage equality in Pennsylvania.

  • 76. JayJonson  |  May 22, 2014 at 6:58 am

    A Supreme Court ruling declaring that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage would have no effect on concluded cases. It might, however, encourage legislatures to revisit the issue. In Pennsylvania, polls have shown that a majority is in favor of marriage equality. However, that would not be the case in Oklahoma, Utah, Texas, etc., and those states would likely reenact laws banning same-sex marriage. But, unless there is a change in the composition of SCOTUS, it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would make such a ruling.

  • 77. Jenni  |  May 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    My cock

  • 78. Equality On TrialPennsylv&hellip  |  August 7, 2014 at 1:12 am

    […] the ban has been struck down and there won’t be an appeal in the case, he has asked the state supreme court to step in and allow him to issue the licenses, […]

  • 79. Equality On TrialJustice &hellip  |  August 7, 2014 at 1:21 am

    […] federal judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban back in May, and state officials quickly announced they wouldn’t appeal the decision. Same-sex couples have been getting married in Pennsylvania […]

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