The media has been buzzing over the recent issue of whether Pennsylvania will lift the ban on same-sex marriages. Across the United States, judges have been striking down the ban on same-sex marriages. The good news is Pennsylvania has followed. On May 20, 2014, a federal judge in Pennsylvania declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.
Surprisingly, Pennsylvania was the last of the Northeast states to lift the ban on same-sex marriages. States such as Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Virginia have all struck down bans on same-sex marriages. If the ruling on May 20, 2014 is not challenged then Pennsylvania will become the 19th state in the United States to permit same-sex marriages.
Who lifted the ban on same-sex marriages?
Judge John E. Jones III of Federal District Court made the final decision. Judge Jones, who is based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was appointed by President George W. Bush in the year 2002. In Judge Jones’ decision to lift the ban on same-sex marriages, he stated, “[w]e are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history[.]” His decision came a day after another federal judge reached the same conclusion about lifting the ban on same-sex marriages in Oregon. How Pennsylvania got to this point?
After a recent Pennsylvania lawsuit was filed last summer, the State’s Attorney General, Kathleen G. Kane, announced that she would not defend the restrictive marriage law. However, Governor Tom Corbett hired private lawyers to argue on behalf of State Officials named in the suit.
The State argued that the legislature had chosen to protect traditional heterosexual marriage and that nothing in the Constitution established a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, which is not rooted in history and tradition.
Nonetheless, the State’s arguments did not affect Judge Jones. Judge Jones instead relied on the Supreme Court’s finding last year that same-sex marriage bans were fueled by animus and inflicted stigma on gay and lesbian families.
What does Judge Jones’ ruling mean?
Even as Governor Tom Corbett said he was studying the decision and considering whether to appeal it, State Officials in Philadelphia began issuing marriage licenses on Tuesday afternoon to gay couples. The City’s marriage license supervisor predicts even more applications to be issued on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, and said that the office would even remain open three hours longer than usual in order to serve all couples wishing to get licenses.
Same-sex couples who seek to get married in Pennsylvania will now be able to do so. Those same-sex couples already married in Pennsylvania will finally be recognized as such in the Commonwealth thanks to Judge Jones’ ruling.