Ban on Gay Marriage Struck Down in Pennsylvania

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U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, III ruled that Pennsylvania’s law banning marriage equality is unconstitutional.  Pennsylvania becomes the tenth state where a federal judge has struck down a marriage ban since the U.S. Supreme Court issued their two marriage-related rulings last year. Here is a link to the ruling: http://coop.pamd.uscourts.gov/13-1861.pdf

Attorney General Kane announced in July of 2013 that the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General would not defend the governor and the Secretary of Health with regard to Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act in Whitewood, et al v. Corbett, et al.

Attorney General Kane, after a legal analysis, determined the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional pursuant to both the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution. As such, a lawyer may not ethically defend her client in a lawsuit where there exists a material difference. In this instance, the unconstitutionality of DOMA was at issue. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Attorneys Act authorizes the AG to delegate the case to the Governor’s Office of General Counsel.

Kane issued the following statement:

“This is an historic day. More importantly, today brings justice to Pennsylvanians who have suffered from unequal protection under the law because of their sexual orientation. When state-sponsored inequality exists, citizens are deprived of the full protections that the Constitution guarantees. Our Commonwealth progressed today and so have the hopes and dreams of many who suffer from inequality.

Today, in Pennsylvania, the Constitution prevailed. Inequality in any form is unacceptable and it has never stood the test of time. I have remained steadfast in my decision not to defend Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act because I made a legal determination as to the unconstitutionality of this law. I am pleased that a learned legal mind such as Judge Jones ruled similarly.”

In response to today’s news out of Pennsylvania, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

“Today a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush became the latest to uphold the most sacred ideals of this nation and our Constitution – that justice and equality matter above all else. It seems that every passing day brings LGBT Americans a new victory in our unwavering march toward justice.  And thanks to our friends at the ACLU of PA and ACLU National, the attorneys of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, and the proud plaintiffs who brought this case, the inescapable reality of full equality under the law is now one step closer.”

The Pennsylvania Family Institute issued this statement:

“This decision tosses aside not just the definition of marriage recognized in law by an overwhelming majority of the people’s representatives, but the definition that has been in place in Pennsylvania since our commonwealth’s founding more than two centuries ago,” said PFI president Michael Geer.

Whitewood v. Wolf was filed on July 9, 2013 by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the ACLU and counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians seeking the right to marry or for the Commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages.  The suit challenges a law passed by the state legislature in 1996 that restricts marriage to the union of one man and one woman.

To date there have been at least six marriage cases filed in Pennsylvania, two in federal court and four in state court.

In today’s ruling, Judge Jones wrote, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”