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No Trial Needed, Say Attorneys in Pa. 'Mini-DOMA' Challenge

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on April 25, 2014 1:27 PM

The last time we wrote about Whitewood v. Wolf was last December when Judge John E. Jones, of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, denied the state's motion to certify an interlocutory appeal.

On Monday, both parties filed motions for summary judgment, effectively asking Judge Jones to decide the case on the briefs rather than waiting for trial, which is scheduled for June 9, 2014.

Whitewood v. Wolf: Background

In July 2013, one widow and 10 gay couples sued to challenge 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 performed in other jurisdictions.

Whitewood v. Wolf: Early Motions

The state filed a motion to dismiss based on a summary dismissal of a 1972 Supreme Court case challenging a Minnesota state law banning same-sex marriage, and Judge Jones denied the motion.

Next, the state filed a motion to certify an interlocutory appeal, which Judge Jones also denied. Jones cited the Third Circuit, which stated, "indications that there have been doctrinal developments since the summary action will relieve a lower court from the duty to adhere to a summary disposition."

Whitewood v. Wolf: Motion for Summary Judgment

On Monday, both plaintiffs and the state filed their motions for summary judgment, effectively asking the court to decide the case based on the briefs in lieu of a trial. The ACLU's filing includes expert testimony regarding the legal disadvantages and economic harms, among others, that same-sex couples face in Pennsylvania.

On the other hand, the state is not "call[ing] any experts to counter the plaintiffs' argument that there is no rational reason why lesbian and gay couples are excluded from marriage, nor does it plan to dispute the specific harms caused to the plaintiffs by the marriage ban," says the ACLU. Instead, the state will rely on the fool-proof argument, "because we said so." (We kid).

We're awaiting Judge Jones' ruling and we'll keep you posted.

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