HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The governor said Wednesday that he will not appeal a court ruling that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, allowing a growing number of couples to proceed with their wedding plans.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision means that same-sex marriage will remain legal in Pennsylvania, without the threat that a higher court will reinstate the ban.
“The case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal,” Corbett said in a statement. “Therefore, after review of the opinion and on the advice of my commonwealth legal team, I have decided not to appeal.”
At an unrelated public event in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Corbett declined to discuss his decision. He said he has personal feelings about the issue, but “I’m going to keep it to myself.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III struck down a 1996 state law banning recognition of gay marriage, calling it unconstitutional. One widow, 11 couples and one couple’s teenage daughters had sued.
Corbett’s decision goes against the Republican governor’s personal beliefs. He opposes same-sex marriage and supported thus-far unsuccessful efforts to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.
“As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered,” Corbett said in the statement. “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.”
Corbett, who is seeking re-election this year facing poor public approval ratings, has sought in recent months to move to the political center and away from staunchly conservative positions on several hot-button issues.
In October, he took heat for comparing the marriage of same-sex couples to the marriage of a brother and sister.
Pennsylvania is the 19th state to recognize same-sex marriages and the last northeastern U.S. state to do so. Hundreds of gay couples rushed to apply for marriage licenses after Jones’ ruling Tuesday.
The lead lawyers in the case, Witold J. Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union and Mark Aronchick, cheered the governor’s decision.
“We applaud the governor for letting the constitutional principles of freedom and equality ring throughout Pennsylvania by allowing loving same-sex couples to marry,” they said in a statement. “As the judge noted, we are a better people than the marriage ban and the governor’s historic decision not to appeal will be an enduring legacy.”
The Harrisburg-based gay rights group Equality PA thanked Corbett.
“Words cannot express what this means to the loving couples and families in Pennsylvania who have waited so long to be recognized,” executive director Ted Martin said in a statement. “Marriage matters to all families, and we rejoice with them today.”
Associated Press writer Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.