Friday, May 23, 2014

After three-day waiting period following legalization, same sex marriages begin in Pennsylvania

     Performance and recognition of same-sex marriage was banned via the Pennsylvania House of Representa­tives and Senate in September and October 1996. The House approved Rep. Allan Egolf's (R-Perry) amendment, 177-16, after an effort to deem it unconstitutional failed, 171-29. The Senate took it up Oct. 1, 1996, and passed it, 43-5. Republican Governor Tom Ridge subsequently signed the amendment into law.
     Whitewood v. Wolf: On July 9, 2013, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, the ACLU filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of 23 plaintiffs—10 couples, 2 of their children, and a widow—seeking to overturn Pennsylvania's 1996 statutory ban on same-sex marriage. The case, originally Whitewood v. Corbett, was assigned to Judge John E. Jones III. On July 11, Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a named defendant, said that she would not defend the statute as she "endorse[d] equality and anti-discrimination laws" and that the statute was "wholly unconstitutional". On July 30, Governor Tom Corbett announced he would defend the statute.
Nebraska author Willa Cather, who
moved to Pittsburgh 118 years too early.
     All parties agreed to having Corbett's name removed as a defendant. The remaining named defendants are the state health and revenue secretaries, and the Bucks County register of wills. On November 15, Judge Jones rejected the state defendants' motion to dismiss the suit. The judge found that while Baker v. Nelson was precedent, it did not require him to find that denial of marriage equality is outside federal jurisdiction because "[t]he jurisprudence of equal protection and substantive due process has undergone what can only be characterized as a sea change since 1972", foremost being the recent Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windssor. Jones set the trial date for June 9, 2014; later deemed unnecessary (see below). In early December, the state's attorneys asked Jones to allow them to ask the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on whether Baker v. Nelson is binding precedent. Judge Jones denied this interlocutory appeal on December 17, writing "this Court is rightfully in position to consider and assess such doctrinal advancements [since Baker]."
      On April 21, 2014, plaintiff same-sex couples filed a motion for summary judgment in Whitewood v. Wolf. This allows the court to rule solely on the briefs, without a trial, where the facts are undisputed in a case. The state defendants have agreed to dispense with trial as well.
     On May 20, 2014, Judge Jones ruled in Whitewood v. Wolf that Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, opining that it violates both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution. The ruling went into effect immediately and was not stayed, allowing same-sex couples to request and receive marriage licenses throughout the state, who can marry after a mandatory 3 day waiting period.
     Pennsylvania's Republican Governor Tom Corbett announced on May 21, 2014 that he and his legal team would not seek to appeal Judge Jones' decision, rendering same-sex marriage permanently legal and making Pennsylvania the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

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