Tom Corbett’s decision not to appeal the ruling striking down PA’s same-sex marriage ban marks the beginning of a new era in state social politics.
While it’s still going to take some time for liberals to win the other big agenda items in this issue space – LGBT coverage under the non-discrimination law, adoption, etc – this decision puts those wins on track to happen a bit faster. LGBT issues will continue to motivate some conservatives for some time yet, but their ranks are dwindling by the day. As with attitudes toward marijuana legalization, support for/opposition to gay rights are heavily correlated with age, and the bigoted view is basically doomed. Transgender rights are really the new frontier, and despite advocates’ success in putting the ‘T’ onto the end of LGB, progress on those issues has been very spotty in PA.
Views on abortion and gun control are not correlated the same way. Only about half of PA Democrats believe in full abortion rights, with the other half at least somewhat receptive to social conservative initiatives to limit the practical exercise of those rights. And there is some evidence that the younger generation is actually a bit more conservative on this issue – perhaps because abortions have become more rare due to increased use of contraception, and their lack of memory of what abortion meant for women pre-Roe.
Tying the abortion issue to health and privacy issues though, like affordable birth control and reproductive health coverage, and warding off intrusive ideas from Republican lawmakers who think their job is vagina policeman, is the ticket for advocacy groups and politicians who want to safeguard abortion access from further setbacks, like the TRAP law passed by Brendan Boyle and Margo Davidson, and the de facto ban on private health plans issuing abortion coverage in Pennsylvania.
The gun issue continues to be a political loser for statewide Democrats, and the prospects for changing that in the medium term seem dim, although the issue suffers no lack of committed and talented advocates like CeaseFire PA and the Gun Crisis Reporting Project.