By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of 21 state residents who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages.
The lawsuit alleges that Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act and refusal to marry lesbian and gay couples or recognize their out-of-state marriages violates the fundamental right to marry as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Pennsylvania is the only Northeastern state that doesn’t allow gay marriage or civil unions.
Bill McCoy, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender office at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, said he was encouraged that the conversation regarding marriage equality was moving forward in Pennsylvania.
“This suit,” he said, “is essential in raising awareness around inequities in financial and social support afforded to the different types of couples within the state. While marriage equity will not address all of the needs of the LGBT community in Pennsylvania, it is an important step toward supporting all families equally in the eyes of the law.”
It is an uphill battle, McCoy said. “Pennsylvania needs to reconcile that it will not attract or retain talent if it continues to disenfranchise LGBT people while its neighbors move toward equality.”
This lawsuit comes in the wake of the ACLU’s victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor, which requires federal recognition for lesbian and gay couples who are married in their home states.
The Pennsylvania plaintiffs argue that the court should closely scrutinize this discriminatory treatment because the state’s DOMA burdens the fundamental right to marry and because it discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation.
The question of legalizing same sex marriage elicited a large response on The Daily Item Facebook page.
Katie Snyder, of Danville, said, “The government has no place telling us who we can and cannot wed.”
And Lindsay Lapp, of Bloomsburg, added, “...of course it should be legalized. Love is love; people are people; everyone deserves equal rights and protection under the law. The end.”
Taking another view on Facebook was Cyndi Clayton, who did not provide a hometown.
“I am not radical,” she said. “Marriage is meant for a man and a woman. I have gay friends and family, but I don’t agree with legalizing gay marriage.”
Same-sex marriage is legal, or soon will be, in 13 states and the District of Columbia, representing about 30 percent of the U.S. population. Every state except Pennsylvania in the Northeastern United States allows same-sex marriage except New Jersey, which allows civil unions.
A 1996 Pennsylvania law defines marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife, and it says same-sex marriages, even if entered legally elsewhere, are void in Pennsylvania. State law does not allow civil unions.
In Pennsylvania, recent polls show a majority are in favor of gay marriage.