Savoring their legal victory — and hoping that Gov. Tom Corbett won’t appeal a federal judge’s overturning a ban on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania — more than 300 people gathered Tuesday evening at Philadelphia City Hall to rejoice.
Just hours earlier, U.S. District Judge John Jones III struck down the Pennsylvania law as unconstitutional.
“We are better people than these laws represent, and it is time to discard them in the ash heap of history,” Jones said in his ruling.
Cheers broke out in the ACLU of Pennsylvania offices Tuesday as lawyers and plaintiffs in the challenge of the state marriage law heard the decision.
The commonwealth will now recognize marriages such as the union of Edwin Hill and David Palmer, who wed in Maine last year, and were among the couples contesting Pennsylvania’s law.
“We’re in love,” Palmer said. “We fell in love immediately 25 years ago and we wanted to get married. We wanted to have our relationship respected …. and it took a while, but we’re very happy.”
The judge did not issue a stay — meaning couples could arrange for weddings immediately.
Rue Landau, who heads the city’s Human Relations Commission, and her partner, Kerry Smith, were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Philadelphia.
“This is fantastic for everyone who wants to get married in Philadelphia and paves our way for more equality in the state and the country,” Landau said.
The ACLU suit challenging Pennsylvania’s law against same-sex marriage was one of several pending legal actions attempting to dissolve the ban.
Not all were happy with the ruling, however.
Brandon McGinley of the Pennsylvania Family Institute said he hopes Gov. Tom Corbett will work to preserve it.
“Whenever you redefine marriage as more about what adults want it to be than for the good of children, then that won’t go without ramifications.” he said.
The Republican Party and the Catholic Conference are among other critics of Jones’ decision to strike down the law.
At a rally hours after the ruling was issued, supporters of same sex marriage gathered at Philadelphia’s City Hall to urge the governor not to appeal the judge’s decision.
Some of the plaintiffs in the legal challenge brought by the ACLU spoke to the cheering crowd of the long wait for marriage equality.
Christine Donato said her parents and those of her partner, Sandy Ferlanie, have been waiting to see them walk down the aisle.
“Two of our parents are sick, and they’ve been waiting for this and hoping that they’d get to see this day,” Donato said. “So I’d actually like to end by saying, Mr. and Mrs. Ferlanie, may I have your blessing in marrying your beautiful daughter?”
The judge’s order allowed couples to begin applying for marriage licenses right away and the Philadelphia register of wills extended its hours Tuesday night.
Corbett is expected to announce Wednesday whether he will appeal the ruling.
For the time being, however, Pennsylvania is the latest of more than a dozen states where courts have thrown out laws barring same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last summer.