The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit [press release] in Harrisburg on behalf of 21 Pennsylvania residents who wish to marry their same-sex partner or who are seeking recognition by the state of Pennsylvania of their out-of-state same-sex marriage. The complaint [text, PDF] alleges that Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act [23 PaCS § 1704] and refusal to marry same-sex couples or to recognize their out-of-state marriages violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounders] as well as the fundamental right to marriage. Among the plaintiffs are 10 same-sex couples, two minor children of those couples and one widow who recently lost her partner of 29 years. Plaintiffs are asking the court to closely scrutinize this treatment, claiming it burdens the fundamental right to marry and discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation. Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania [advocacy website] commented on the case, saying, "It's wrong that the state where these couples live, work, and raise families treats them as second-class couples."
This lawsuit comes in the wake of the recent US Supreme Court decision in the case of U.S. v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report]. The court ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] is unconstitutional. The ruling did not create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but it entitles couples in lawfully recognized same-sex marriages to certain federal benefits. Pennsylvania joins the list of other states that have recently taken measures regarding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. In March the ACLU of New Mexico filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in a New Mexico state court on behalf of two same-sex couples seeking the legal right to marry. In the same month Vermont's House of Representatives approved a bill [JURIST report] that would require out-of-state employers to provide the same health care coverage to same-sex couples as employees with an opposite-sex spouse. Also in March the Colorado House of Representative voted in favor of a bill [JURIST report] that would legalize civil unions in the state.