HARRISBURG, Pa. —
If both New Jersey and Pennsylvania legalize same-sex marriage, it would be law across a nine-state region that is home to more than 55 million people, or nearly a fifth of the nation’s population. Just below the Northeast, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., also allow gay marriage.
The debate in New Jersey, an overwhelmingly urban, Democratic state with a popular Republican governor, stretches back more than a decade. The state had already recognized civil unions, and on Friday, the state Supreme Court upheld an order for same-sex marriages to begin at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
The court said it will allow weddings to proceed while it considers an appeal by Gov. Chris Christie. However, justices gave a strong signal that the ruling likely will become permanent, saying they did not think the governor’s arguments were likely to prevail.
Meanwhile, leaders of the Legislature’s Democratic majority plan a postelection vote on overriding Christie’s veto of a 2012 gay marriage bill, although no previous Christie veto has been overridden.
In Pennsylvania, where the first openly gay legislator was elected and Fleck came out of the closet last year, expectations are lower. Gov. Tom Corbett is a Republican, and the GOP controls both houses in the Legislature.
Fleck blamed demographics for the traditionally low profile of gay rights in the Legislature. While polls may show statewide support for gay marriage, he said, legislative constituents in Pennsylvania’s vast rural and Appalachian areas — bookended by the more liberal hubs of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia — do not share that viewpoint.
“It’s certainly not the majority of my constituents,” he said.
Fleck, who had been married to a woman, left that relationship in 2011 and came out in an interview with his local newspaper in December shortly after he was re-elected. At the time, he was the nation’s only openly gay Republican legislator.