The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania this morning on behalf of 23 plaintiffs to overturn the state’s law banning marriage equality. The lawsuit is the first legal challenge to a state’s statutory ban following the Supreme Court repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. The plaintiffs include nine couples, four of whom are married in other states, one widow, and a couple with two teenage daughters who are named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against several state government officials including Governor Tom Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Governor Corbett has expressed his opposition to marriage equality, while Attorney General Kane ran for election on the platform of full LGBTQ equality last year.
The lawsuit cites the number of government benefits and protections which same-sex families are not eligible for, including social security benefits, family medical leave, medical power of attorney, and workers compensation for spouses injured or killed while working, among others. Because Pennsylvania grants same-sex parent adoptions, the lawsuit points out that having parents who are unable to access marital benefits is not in the best interest of the child.
A full profile of all the plaintiffs is available on the ACLU of PA’s website here.
Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast United States which does not allow for marriage equality or civil unions. Marriage equality is banned by a state law passed in 1996, but not by a constitutional amendment. If the law is declared unconstitutional, it could lead to the repeal of similar laws in Wyoming, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia.
Sen. Daylin Leach introduced the first marriage equality legislation in the State Senate in 2009. This session the bill is SB 717 and has only five co-sponsors. The introduction of marriage equality legislation in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was recently announced but is not expected until the fall. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-12) has introduced a bill to make marriage equality unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. HB1349 currently has 32 co-sponsors.