HARRISBURG, Pa. —
Rep. Brian Sims, a lawyer and former Bloomsburg University football team captain who came out to his teammates during his final semester, introduced a gay marriage bill just this week and predicted that victory is not far off.
“In about 15 months, we’re going to have a new governor who’s going to be signing this bill into law,” the Philadelphia Democrat said, referring to the large field of Democrats who want to challenge Corbett’s 2014 re-election bid.
Corbett publicly opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage but refuses to say in advance that he would veto such a bill, his spokesman said.
Lawmakers have made clear that gay marriage is not recognized in Pennsylvania. Changes approved by a lopsided, bipartisan majority in 1996 limited marriage to one man and one woman and declared that same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere are void in Pennsylvania. The state also does not recognize civil unions.
Five lawsuits involving gay marriage have been filed in federal and state courts following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, including two that seek to overturn Pennsylvania’s ban on constitutional grounds.
Gay marriage proponents received an unexpected boost in July when state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, announced that she believed the state ban was unconstitutional and that she would not defend it in court. Corbett subsequently hired former state Supreme Court Justice William Lamb to represent the administration in those cases.
Shortly afterward Kane’s bombshell, Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes in suburban Philadelphia began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, some of whom were married by at least two mayors in other parts of the state. A judge ordered Hanes to stop issuing the licenses in September and the county appealed to the state Supreme Court.
James D. Esseks, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer and the group’s lead attorney in the successful challenge of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, said the litigation and legislation will win new protections for gay couples while building a foundation for a favorable Supreme Court ruling on the constitutional issues.
“Nobody knows,” he said, “which case is going to be the one.”
Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.