Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
Federal Judge, John E. Jones III, struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage today on the grounds that it unconstitutionally discriminated the citizens of Pennsylvania based upon their sexual orientation. In Whitewood v. Wolf, Judge Jones ordered that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allow same-sex couples to marry and to recognize all valid out-of-state marriages.
In his opinion Judge Jones states, “We now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage.”
Judge Jones recognized that some citizens of Pennsylvania are uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage, but points out that just because something is uncomfortable, it should not be illegal. Specifically, in his conclusion, Judge Jones states, “The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discard doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’”
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now has thirty (30) days to appeal the decision of Judge Jones. If the Commonwealth does not appeal this decision, Judge Jones’ order will become law and Pennsylvania will be required to abide by his decision.
What exactly does this mean? Same-sex couples can now get married in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, those same-sex couples who were legally married in another state, Canada, or any other nation recognizing same-sex marriages, are now classified as married in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This allows those same-sex couples who wish to divorce the opportunity to do so in Pennsylvania without being forced to establish residency in another state.
David W. Crosson practices in the areas of family law, handling matters pertaining to divorce, custody, support, and visitation.