Confident Pa. same sex marriage ban will be overturned
I am hopefully for my home state of Pennsylvania. Below is more info
Last week’s decision overturning Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, the first of its kind in a southern state but one of a growing number of similar court rulings, left an attorney for the plaintiffs challenging Pennsylvania’s ban on such unions feeling uplifted and confident.
“It’s not so surprising,” said John S. Stapleton, who represents the 10 couples — including one from the Downingtown area — who want the state’s law defining marriage as a union between a woman and a man thrown out. “It’s exciting.”
U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen’s decision on Thursday echoes recent rulings elsewhere in the U.S., Stapleton said, and is the strongest foothold yet in the South for the gay-marriage movement. On Wednesday, another judge declared that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, but didn’t rule on the constitutionality of whether such marriages can be performed in the state.
“It is exciting to see state after state coming around to recognize marriage for all couples,” said Stapleton, of the Philadelphia law firm of Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudin & Schiller, which is working alongside the ACLU of Pennsylvania in challenging the state’s 1996 law.
“I think that we are seeing, not just in Virginia, but in Kentucky, and in Nevada, and in Utah, and other cases, courts viewing these laws as failing to put forward any interest of the state in passing these discriminatory laws,” he said in a telephone interview Friday.
“You are seeing great movement, in both the public forum and the courts, that the time has come to (overturn) these laws,” he said. “Gays and lesbians get married for the same reasons that everyone else does, and that they should be entitled to express those rights.”
The Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed in July, is scheduled to go to trial before U.S. District Judge John E. Jones in Harrisburg later this spring.
Although Stapleton said the Virginia decision would have no precedential impact on the Pennsylvania case, he nevertheless said he saw no real distinction between the two states’ statutes. “We do not see a basis for distinguishing the Pennsylvania law from other laws (that have been found wanting),” he said. “We are looking forward to taking our case to trial in June and establishing that Pennsylvania does not have a constitutional basis for these discriminatory laws.”
Joel Frank, an attorney for the West Chester law firm of Lamb McErlane, which is representing the state in defending the law, declined comment on the Virginia decision Friday.
State Attorney General Kathleen has said her office will not defend the law, a position similar to that of Mark Herring, the newly elected Virginia attorney general.
Herring took the unusual step of not defending the law because it believes the ban violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
In her ruling, the judge agreed.
Wright Allen struck down the three key arguments offered for denying gay marriages. “Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family,” Wright Allen wrote.
The judge also wrote: “Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships.”
Opponents of the Virginia ban say the issue resonates in Virginia in particular because of a landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a Virginia couple and interracial marriage.
Mildred and Richard Loving were married in Washington, D.C., and lived in Virginia when police raided their home in 1958 and charged them with violating the state’s Racial Integrity law. They were convicted but prevailed before the Supreme Court.
During verbal arguments in the gay marriage case, Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael said that ban is legally indistinguishable from the one on interracial marriage. He said the arguments used to defend the ban now are the same ones used back then, including that marriage between two people of the same sex has never been historically allowed. Wright Allen concurred with that assessment in her ruling.
The Pennsylvania plaintiffs include Heather and Kath Poehler of East Brandywine, who were legally married in Massachusetts in 2005, but whose status as spouses is not recognized here because of the state ban.
Pennsylvania would become the 14th state to legalize gay marriage if the lawsuit is successful. It also would force the state to recognize the legal marriages of all same-sex couples in other jurisdictions.
The 1996 Pennsylvania law defines marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife, and it says same-sex marriages, even if entered legally elsewhere, are void in Pennsylvania. State law does not allow civil unions.
In Pennsylvania, recent polls show a majority is in favor of gay marriage. The U.S. Census reports that there were 744 same-sex couples in Chester County in 2011.
Posted on February 18, 2014, in LGBT Equality, News & Politics and tagged gay equality, gay marriage, gay rights, lgbt, marriage equality, Pennsylvania. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Confident Pa. same sex marriage ban will be overturned.