While most states in the Northeast recognize the rights of same-sex couples to marry, Pennsylvania, whose motto ironically is "Virtue, Liberty and Independence," only recognizes marriage between a man and woman.
The Supreme Court's Windsor decision earlier this year has been the small pebble in the pond whose ripple effects are getting wider and wider. That case has spurred five lawsuits in Pennsylvania alone, some in state and some in federal court, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Whitewood v. Wolf - Background
The most recent development comes from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, where Judge John E. Jones III isn't letting the state off so easy. In July, one widow, and ten gay couples sued challenging Pennsylvania's "mini-DOMA" claiming that the law violated their right to equal protection under the law. Specifically, the plaintiffs challenged Pennsylvania law defining marriage between a man and woman, and a separate law declaring void valid same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.
The state made a motion to dismiss, which Judge Jones denied, finding unconvincing the state's reliance on one sentence in a Supreme Court decision from 1972, Baker v. Nelson, that a challenge to a Minnesota state law banning same-sex marriage "was not 'a substantial federal question,'" reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Whitewood v. Wolf - Interlocutory Appeal
On Wednesday, Judge Jones reiterated his opinion in an order denying the state's motion for certification and amendment of order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). The state argued that the one line from Baker precluded the district court's subject matter jurisdiction in the matter, but Judge Jones disagreed. He stated, "it is manifest that there have been substantial and far-reaching developments in the jurisprudence of equal protection and substantive due process in the forty-one years since Baker was issued," and therefore, he continued, "this Court is rightfully in position to consider and assess such doctrinal advancements."
Trial is scheduled to begin on June 9, 2014, reports the Associated Press. We'll keep you updated with progress.
- 3rd Cir. Gay Marriage Round Up: Del. and N.J. Lead the Way, Pa. Lags (FindLaw's U.S. Third Circuit Blog)
- PA Court Clerk Ordered to Stop Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses (FindLaw's U.S. Third Circuit Blog)
- SCOTUS Marriage Rulings: DOMA Is Dead, Prop. 8 Down on Standing (FindLaw's Supreme Court of the United States Blog)