Gay couples file suit against Pennsylvania over same-sex marriage ban

    That didn’t take long.

    The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of twenty-one Pennsylvanians, challenging the constitutionality of state laws that prevent them from marrying and do not recognize their out-of-state marriages.

    The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month left in place a legal patchwork of laws nationwide which experts say represents the next round of same-sex marriage litigation.

    The complaint filed today in Pennsylvania quotes from the Supreme Court’s June decision in United States v. Windsor, reading in part:

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    The exclusion from marriage undermines the plaintiff couples’ ability to achieve their life goals and dreams, threatens their mutual economic stability, and denies them ‘a dignity and status of immense import.’—United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307, Slip Op., at 18 (U.S. June 26, 2013).

    That decision struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act which barred same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits.

    Various federal agencies rely on differing definitions of marriage, some rely on the rules of the state where a couple lives and others on the so-called “place of celebration” of their marriage.

    The gay and lesbian couples represent a cross-section same-sex partners, hailing from Philadelphia, Downingtown, Bangor (north of Easton in Northampton County), Harrisburg, State College, and Pittsburgh.

    They are, according to the complaint, Deb and Susan Whitewood, Fredia and Lynn Hurdle, Fernando Chang-Muy and Len Rieser, Dawn Plummer and Diana Poison, Angela Gillem and Gail Lloyd, and Ron Gebhardtsbauer and Greg Wright, who cannot marry under Pennsylvania law.

    Additionally, plaintiffs Maureen Hennessey, Edwin Hill and David Palmer, Helena Miller and Dara Raspberry, Heather and Kath Poehler, and Marla Cattermole and Julia Lobur, whose marriages in other states are not recognized by the state of Pennsylvania.

    “Like other couples who have made a lifetime commitment to each other, the plaintiff couples are spouses in every sense, except that Pennsylvania law says they cannot marry,” reads the document filed in court.

    The ACLU is holding a press conference in Harrisburg this morning with its partners in the suit, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia-based law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller.

    Last week, Lambda Legal filed a new motion in New Jersey in the case of Garden State Equality et al. v. Dow, arguing that state’s civil unions are unconstitutional. Delaware began offering same-sex marriages on July 1.

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      ACLU Same Sex Marriage Complaint (PDF)
      ACLU Same Sex Marriage Complaint (Text)

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