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Marriage Equality

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U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III Issues Opinion on Marriage Equality Lawsuit.

May 20, 2014.  In a victory for the plaintiffs, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an order striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage and the recognition of valid same-sex marriages performed in other states.  Judge Jones ruled that Pennsylvania’s law barring marriage equality is unconstitutional as a violation of both the due process and equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  He wrote, “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.”

Whitewood v. Wolf, No. 1:13-cv-1861, was filed July 9, 2013 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, volunteer counsel from Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudline & Schiller, and University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Seth Kreimer.  The suit was brought on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians seeking the right to marry or for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to recognize their out-of-state marriages.  The lawsuit challenged a law passed by the General Assembly in 1996 that restricts marriage to the union of one man and one woman and denies recognition of valid same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Marriage equality has gained momentum since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 that legally married same-sex couples are eligible for federal benefits.  Judge Jones’ decision made Pennsylvania the 19th U.S. state where same-sex marriage is permitted.  This decision affected the rights of same-sex couples in the employment arena — including the availability of spousal benefits and eligibility for filing state taxes as a married couple.

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