Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania's Ban on Gay Marriage


U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones has struck down Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage.

There appears to be no immediate stay of the ruling. Gay couples can marry now!

JonesWrites Jones in the ruling:

Based on the foregoing, we hold that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because these laws are unconstitutional, we shall enter an order permanently enjoining their enforcement. By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of "separate but equal." In the sixty years since Brown (v. Board of Education) was decided, "separate" has thankfully faded into history, and only "equal" remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

Read the ruling, AFTER THE JUMP...

More on the case:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union, and volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller filed a federal lawsuit on July 9, 2013, on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages.

The lawsuit alleges that Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act and refusal to marry lesbian and gay couples or recognize their out-of-state marriages violates the fundamental right to marry as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This lawsuit comes in the wake of the ACLU's victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor, which requires federal recognition for lesbian and gay couples who are married in their home states. Plaintiffs argue that the court should closely scrutinize this discriminatory treatment because the state's Defense of Marriage Act burdens the fundamental right to marry and because it discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation.

A video featuring two of the ACLU's plaintiffs, Maureen Hennessey (and her late partner Mary Beth McIntyre, photo top), AFTER THE JUMP...

Profiles of all the plaintiffs can be found here.

1:13-cv-01861 Pennsylvania Decision by Equality Case Files

Maureen Hennessey lived with the love of her life, Mary Beth McIntyre, from 1984 until Mary Beth's death on May 18, 2013, at the age of 55. Together they raised three children in Philadelphia. While Mary Beth was suffering the physical and emotional pain of end stage cancer, she had the additional burden of worrying about how Maureen would manage financially after she was gone. Because their marriage is not recognized in Pennsylvania, Maureen must pay a 15 percent inheritance tax on half of their shared property, including their home. And unless their marriage is recognized in Pennsylvania before Maureen turns 65, Maureen will not be eligible to receive Mary Beth's Social Security benefits.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union, and volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller filed a federal lawsuit on July 9, 2013, on behalf of Maureen and 22 other Pennsylvanians who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages.

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    Posted by: WayneMPLS | May 20, 2014 2:36:17 PM

  2. Another one down! Now the entire northeast has marriage equality. Soon the Supreme Court will decide for the entire country or refuse to hear an appeal which would let a Federal Appeals Court ruling stand! Woo Hoo! You cannot enshrine discrimination into your state constitutions. It's only been a matter of time for justice to say "No, No".

    Posted by: Jere | May 20, 2014 3:16:06 PM

  3. What a great day to be a Pennsylvanian. This morning I got to vote to unseat Tom Corbett, and this afternoon, to be recognized a someone with full rights (almost still need ENDA here).

    Posted by: bob | May 20, 2014 3:22:43 PM

  4. Great news, but I'm sure it'll put on hold in the very near future...so get married whilst you can.

    Posted by: marco | May 20, 2014 3:26:34 PM

  5. I am a very proud native Pennsylvanian! Let's hope Corbett gets the boot.

    Posted by: Jack M | May 20, 2014 3:27:38 PM

  6. ouch! he certainly made that clear.
    here come the judge!, as flip wilson used to say

    Posted by: woody | May 20, 2014 3:30:04 PM

  7. And the tighty-right-, wing-nut, Tea-Batty, FOX-bots heads start to explode in 5-4-3-2-1.....

    Posted by: jamal49 | May 20, 2014 3:30:16 PM

  8. Well, I'm happy for Pennsylvania Gays (the young and not so young). I truly am.

    But this wonderful decision won't do me any good. I can't get Blair Underwood to leave his female wife and come to get me.

    But I'm happy for the rest of Gay Pennsylvania!!!

    And I can't have Michael Vick because they ran him out of the state.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | May 20, 2014 3:40:15 PM

  9. Wow, he actually used Intermediate Scrutiny and declared gays & lesbians a quasi-suspect class. If I'm not mistaken, all the prior rulings and opinions have side-stepped that, saying (rightly) that the marriage bans did not survive even rational basis review ... and thus not "bothering" to determine whether any heightened scrutiny should apply to us.

    Huzzah to Judge Jones for not taking this easy way out. He applies "Intermediate Scrutiny" and does not weasel out on that. He says the defendant's assertions and the marriage ban do not survive the tests of Intermediate Scrutiny and denies those claims and overturns the ban on that basis.

    I'm pretty sure that's a first!

    Posted by: Zlick | May 20, 2014 3:47:51 PM

  10. this is the judge that also ruled that creationism can't be taught in science classes

    Posted by: woody | May 20, 2014 4:02:57 PM

  11. My same-sex husband Nick and I were married last December in Maryland to be eligible for significant Federal tax benefits. At the time we were disappointed that this could not be in our home state of PA - since that is where we met and have been together for 39 years. Now we rejoice that PA recognizes our union to be as valid as any of our friends' or neighbors' marriages. Hooray!

    Posted by: Hal Dixler | May 20, 2014 4:19:21 PM

  12. My Equality is not determined by someone's Mythology. My partner and I live in Pennsylvania, this is just the beginning, still some heavy lifting to do but the load just got lighter.

    Posted by: Jerry | May 20, 2014 4:59:46 PM

  13. Go PA! Loved the video ...

    Posted by: reality | May 20, 2014 5:02:59 PM

  14. The most important message from this case, and from a couple of the other decisions, is that it was written by a Republican appointee -- in this case, George W Bush appointed Judge Jones. But equally important is to whom this message may mean the most: Justice Kennedy.

    The Supreme Court will ultimately decide these issues. Right now, the only certain prediction is that 4 votes will allow bans on same-sex marriage, and 4 votes will reject such bans. The wild card is what Justice Kennedy will do -- one person deciding this issue for the entire country. So, the more that these court cases are decided in our favor by Republican judges, the more comfortable Justice Kennedy is going to feel that EVEN CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN JUDGES see the ban as unconstitutional.

    Posted by: MiddleoftheRoader | May 20, 2014 5:11:39 PM

  15. With that it brings the "Percent of Population Living in States with Marriage Equality" to 43.7%.


    Posted by: Retro | May 20, 2014 5:13:05 PM

  16. It's worth noting that this is the guy who wrote the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which he declared the teaching of intelligent design unconstitutional.

    And man...that last line. Just perfect.

    Posted by: Chris S. | May 20, 2014 5:40:29 PM

  17. Hallelujah! What a glorious day for all families in Pennsylvania, gay and heterosexual. We have been praying for this day for a long time. Finally, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has laws reflecting the freedom and justice supported by William Penn and our founders. God bless marriage and all the new married couples!

    Posted by: DB | May 20, 2014 6:04:05 PM

  18. "We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history."

    What he said...x10.

    Posted by: GreatLakeSailor | May 20, 2014 6:58:28 PM

  19. I don't usually revel in schadenfreude, but I am amused by the usual chorus of woe, not only from the Browns and the Perkins of the world, but the added chorus of AFAPA's Diane Gramley hving an apoplectic fit.

    Posted by: bob | May 20, 2014 8:18:27 PM

  20. Happy for the PA folks. Lived there for 52 years. Still a very backwards state. Glad to be gone. All the best to my Pennsy friends.

    Posted by: Dan | May 20, 2014 9:47:07 PM

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