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Gay marriage: Lawsuit, first since DOMA ruling, targets Pennsylvania ban

The ACLU, on behalf of 10 same-sex couples and others, filed the suit, which cites language from the majority opinion in the DOMA case in asking a US judge to strike down the Pennsylvania ban.

By Staff writer / July 9, 2013

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Witold J. Walczak speaks on the steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg, Penn., alongside many of the 23 men, women, and children who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to overturn a state law effectively banning same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, July 9.

Marc Levy/AP



The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit Tuesday on behalf of 10 same-sex couples, two children, and a lesbian widow asking a federal judge to strike down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage.

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The lawsuit comes less than two weeks after the US Supreme Court invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and opened the way for California to resume same-sex marriages.

The suit is the first of several lawsuits expected at the state level in the wake of the DOMA decision and cited language from the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The case was filed in federal court in Harrisburg, Pa., and was assigned to US District Judge John Jones. Judge Jones is a 2002 appointee of then-President George W. Bush.

If the suit is successful, Pennsylvania would become the 14th state to recognize same-sex marriage through either a court ruling or legislative action. Similar legal challenges are expected soon in North Carolina and Virginia.

The Pennsylvania suit seeks to take the legal battle over same-sex marriage one step further than the Supreme Court was willing to go last month in its landmark ruling in the DOMA case.

The plaintiffs argue that Pennsylvania’s marriage law denies them the ability to exercise a “fundamental right” to marry regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court has held that marriage is a fundamental right in unions between a man and a woman, but the high court has not yet addressed whether same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.

“The Supreme Court has long recognized that marriage is a fundamental right and that choices about marriage, like choices about other aspects of family, are a central part of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause,” the Pennsylvania suit says in part.

“Pennsylvania law denies the plaintiff couples and other same-sex couples this fundamental right by denying them access to the state-recognized institution of marriage and refusing to recognize the marriages they entered into in other states.”


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