Tuesday, May 20, 2014

19 And Counting! Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Ban On Marriage Equality

For the second time in two days, a federal judge has brought marriage equality to a blue state. Yesterday, openly gay federal judge (nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013) Michael McShane ruled that Oregon's marriage laws were unconstitutionally prohibiting same-sex marriage. Today federal judge John E. Jones II (nominated by George W. Bush in 2002) struck down Pennsylvania's state ban on marriage equality. The attorney general of Pennsylvania refused to defend her state's statutory ban on same-sex marriage. Pennsylvania does not have an LGBT non-discrimination law or a constitutional ban on recognizing or invalidating same-sex marriages.

In the case of Whitewood v. Wolf the judge concluded that
Based on the foregoing, we hold that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because these laws are unconstitutional, weshall enter an order permanently enjoining their enforcement. By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in theCommonwealth.  
The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are madedeeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibitionconstitutional. 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 disregarded notion of "separate but equal." [citations omitted] In the sixty years since Brown was decided "separate" has faded into history, and only "equal" remains. Similarly, in future generations the term same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage. 
We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them to the ash heap of history.
Since no stay was issued and it is unlikely (but possible) that the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals will issue a stay in the near future, Pennsylvania becomes the 19th marriage equality state!

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