GOP Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, the only Northeastern state that does not grant same-sex couples equal marriage or civil unions, came out in support of state legislation to protect the LGBT community on Tuesday, December17, amid an uphill battle for re-election that finds his campaign supported by only 20% of the registered voters in his state.
Meeting with LGBT workers in the state who spoke to him about the discrimination faced by the community in the workplace, Corbett had a change of heart, recognizing that there is currently no legislation in place in the state of Pennsylvania that protects the LGBT employees from such discrimination.
“I’ve had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against,” Corbett told the Philadelphia Inquirer in an interview on December 17.
“The federal government has antidiscrimination laws. I believed they covered it.”
Corbett’s endorsement has sparked renewed hope for the antidiscrimination legislation in Pennsylvania, which has languished due to lack of support in the Republican controlled State Legislature.
“This is remarkably big news,” said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“His leadership will move the issue forward in a way that is long overdue.”
Corbett is just one of the latest in a trend of GOP elected officials and party leaders who have come out in support of legislation which protects the LGBT community from discrimination, such as US senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), who voted in favor of the Employment Non Discrimination Act last month.
However, Corbett still maintains his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying “my position hasn’t changed…I believe marriage is one man and one woman,” and sees no conflict in his stance on other LGBT issues.
He is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union over Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban, which brought a suit against the state in July, on behalf of gay and lesbian couples who say the ban violates their constitutional rights.