John M. Becker

Will Pennsylvania be the Next Marriage State?

Filed By John M. Becker | April 21, 2014 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: ACLU, gay marriage, lawsuit, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

rings.jpgToday in Pennsylvania, lawyers in Whitewood v. Wolf -- a lawsuit challenging the state's constitutional marriage discrimination amendment -- filed a motion asking a federal judge to decide the case on the briefs alone, without going to trial in June as scheduled.

The state, which is defending the ban, cannot find a single "expert witness" to testify against the plaintiffs' argument that Pennsylvania's ban is irrational and harmful, so the plaintiffs say a full bench trial is unnecessary.

The ACLU, which brought the suit on behalf of 11 same-sex couples who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or have their out-of-state same-gender marriages recognized, a widow of a same-sex spouse, and two teenage children of one of the plaintiff couples, reports:

"It's difficult to explain to our five-year-old son why his parents are not married. I hope that we will be able to marry in Pennsylvania before our younger child is old enough to ask the same questions," said Diana Polson, one of the plaintiffs.

"Every single time we cross the Delaware River to come home, my heart drops a little as I remember that here, in our home, we are not married," said Plaintiff David Palmer. Palmer and Ed Hill got married in Maine after 25 years together but are not recognized as married in Pennsylvania.

A trial became unnecessary after the commonwealth stated that it will not call 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...

Along with the motion, today's filing included written testimony from six experts, including a report on the legal disadvantages that same-sex couples face in estate planning, taxes, health care, and family law in Pennsylvania because they cannot marry or have their marriages from other states respected by Pennsylvania. The motion also includes another expert report about the economic harms to the state's economy and businesses caused by the commonwealth's failure to allow same-sex couples to marry or to recognize their marriages from other states.

According to the ACLU, "both sides agree" that no trial is necessary. The group reports that the deadline for all filings in the case is May 12, meaning that if U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III also agrees, he could rule anytime after that.

UPDATE, 2:25 P.M. EDT: Brian Sims, the first openly LGBT elected member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, responded to today's news via press release:

"I am very heartened to hear of the court's decision to move forward quickly in the Whitewood v. Wolf case. The sentiments of millions of Pennsylvanians and indeed, Americans across the nation are rapidly shifting in favor of recognizing the freedom to marry of committed, hardworking LGBT couples. It is far past the time that our laws catch up to the belief of the majority of Pennsylvanians that all families ought to be recognized under the law."

As we've reported here at Bilerico, Rep. Sims is co-sponsoring the Pennsylvania Marriage Equality Act, which would bring the freedom to marry to the Keystone State.

Copies of the relevant court filings are after the jump, via Equality Case Files.

Motion for Summary Judgment

1:13-cv-01861 #113 by Equality Case Files

Memo in Support of Motion

1:13-cv-01861 #114 by Equality Case Files

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