Following in the footsteps of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Defense of Marriage Act, the American Civil Liberties Union has announced the first legal challenge nationwide to a state ban on same-sex marriage.
Earlier today, the ACLU announced in a press release the organization has “filed a federal lawsuit on July 9 on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages.”
The ACLU argues the ban satisfies neither legitimate interests of the government nor the welfare of the child. Pennsylvania judges routinely grant adoption to same-sex couples. According to the lawsuit, "it serves only to disparage and injure lesbian and gay couples and their families.”
The plaintiffs include a widow from a same-sex relationship of 29 years and 10 same-sex couples — four of whom were legally married in other states but go unrecognized and deprived the legal benefits of marriage in Pennsylvania.
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However, according to the plaintiffs, their motives are not exclusively legal. The prosecution sees their legal challenge as a way to bring about social acceptance of gay couples.
"I wanted our relationship to be respected like everybody else's relationship," said Susan Whitewood, who lives with her partner of 29 years in a suburb of Pittsburgh. "That was first and foremost the reason for doing this. I wasn't looking for legal validation."
The Pennsylvania ban on same-sex marriage was passed the same year as DOMA in 1996. Proponents even advocated the ban manifested a statewide consensus of moral opposition to gay couples. One advocate described it as, “an expression of Pennsylvania's traditional and longstanding policy of moral opposition to same-sex marriages."
Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that does not allow same-sex marriage. If the challenge is ultimately successful, Pennsylvania will be the 14th state to legalize gay marriage.