Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Court Strikes Down Pennsylvania Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

In Whitewood v. Wolf, (MD PA, May 20, 2014), a Pennsylvania federal district court held that the Pennsylvania's prohibition of same-sex marriage and its refusal to recognize same-sex marriages validly entered elsewhere violate the 14th Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses. The court concluded that "the fundamental right to marry is a personal right to be exercised by the individual" and rejected "Defendants’ contention that concepts of history and tradition dictate that same-sex marriage is excluded from the fundamental right to marry."  In its lengthy equal protection analysis, the court concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation are quasi-suspect and applied intermediate scrutiny to find that Pennsylvania had not shown that the ban on same-sex marriage is substantially related to an important governmental interest.

The Washington Post reports that immediately after the court's ruling, same-sex couples hurried to obtain marriage licenses, fearing that Gov. Tom Corbett would appeal the ruling. County offices remained open late in Philadelphia to issue licenses, and the Pittsburgh office is taking marriage license applications online.  Pennsylvania has a 3-day waiting period after issuance of a license before a person can marry, unless a court waives the waiting period. The Governor's office said it was studying the court's ruling. The Governor defended the state's ban in court after the state's attorney general refused to do so.

UPDATE: On May 21, Gov. Tom Corbett announced that the state will not appeal the court's decision.