Twenty-one same-sex couples on Wednesday filed suit asking the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court [official website] to affirm the legality of their marriage licenses, which were issued by a county clerk [JURIST report] who believed the state's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. The couples claim that the state's same-sex marriage ban violates both the state and federal constitutions, and the suit names as defendants Governor Tom Corbett, Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Health Secretary Michael Wolf [official websites]. Earlier this month Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ordered [opinion, PDF] the Montgomery County Register of Wills [official website] court clerk Bruce Hanes to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, finding that Hanes could not disregard the Pennsylvania Marriage Law [text] simply because he believed it to be unconstitutional. Hanes began issuing licenses to same-sex couples after Kane said the law was unconstitutional under the US Supreme Court holding in United States v. Windsor [JURIST reports].
The heated debate over same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most polarizing issues currently facing the American legal community, with courts splitting over whether to recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. On Wednesday a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] expanded a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking the recognition of same-sex spouses on death certificates. Judge Timothy Black ruled in July and September [JURIST reports] that the surviving same-sex spouses of two decedents should be listed as spouses on death certificates because their marriages were valid under the laws of the states where they were performed. Earlier this week a Kentucky judge ruled that the same-sex spouse of a woman charged with murder must testify against her at the trial because same-sex partners are not protected by the spousal privilege [JURIST report] under Kentucky state law. Last month the Texas Supreme Court [official website] announced that it will consider whether the state has jurisdiction [JURIST report] to grant divorces to two same-sex couples who were legally married in Massachusetts.