Our opinion: Throwing in the towel

In the end – and the legal issue of same-sex marriage has come to an end in Pennsylvania – it may have come down to poll reading in an election year.

We weren’t surprised at a federal district judge -even a Republican appointed by George W. Bush -would rule against Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by the state General Assembly and signed into law in 1996. Defending such statutes is particularly difficult given the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, no matter which political party is stamped on your voter registration card.

We were somewhat surprised, however, at the swift response of Gov. Tom Corbett, who announced the day after the decision that his administration would not be pursuing an appeal of the ruling by District Court Judge John E. Jones III. Jones had made it clear in his ruling that the law was counter to the principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution: “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them onto the ash heap of history.” With that he filed Pennsylvania’s “Defense of Marriage Act” in the same drawer as laws in other states that prohibited inter-racial marriage.

We wrote in this space some time ago that we believe that the tide of equal rights for all people may be slow, but it is inexorable.

It became clear only weeks ago, when both sides of the issue before Judge Jones stipulated they wanted a declaratory judgement without additional testimony that the question was fairly simple: same-sex marriage bans are either constitutional or they are not.

Corbett’s concession announcement was his grudging agreement that the Constitution is clear on the matter.

But, with a February poll showing that 57 percent of potential voters supported same-sex marriage and 37 percent were opposed to the idea, the governor may have decided it was time to cut his losses.