New state, federal suits filed for marriage equality in PA


Two more lawsuits were filed Thursday in the effort to overturn Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage.

A federal lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by a legally married lesbian couple. The women were married in 2005 in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize marriage equality, and now live in Philadelphia.

The couple, together since 1998, is arguing that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. The suit contends that the law violates equal-protection, due-process and other constitutional guarantees.

The suit was initiated by Equality Forum. Firms Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Jerner & Palmer are handling the case.

Also Thursday, 21 same-sex couples who received marriage licenses in Montgomery County this summer filed suit in state Commonwealth Court. That suit also argues that the state ban is unconstitutional and urges the court to rule that the licenses are valid.

The couples were among 174 who received licenses from MontCo Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, who moved to grant the licenses after determining the state DOMA is unconstitutional and upholding such a law would violate his oath of office.

The state Department of Health sued and, earlier this month, a judge ordered Hanes to stop issuing licenses, but did not rule on the validity of those that were issued.

The suits come months after the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed suit in federal court on behalf of 23 plaintiffs — same-sex couples, their kids and a widow — calling for the overturning of Pennsylvania’s DOMA. A hearing in that case is scheduled for next week.

Read the full details on all three pending cases in next week’s PGN.