[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] on Tuesday struck down [opinion, PDF; order, PDF] Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed the federal lawsuit [JURIST report] last July on behalf of 21 Pennsylvania residents who wished to marry their same-sex partners or who were seeking recognition of their out-of-state same-sex marriages. The complaint [text, PDF] alleged 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 violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounders] as well as the fundamental right to marriage. Judge John Jones III agreed, granting plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment:
The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of “separate but equal.” … In the sixty years since Brown was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.
An appeal is expected.
Tuesday’s ruling follows a similar ruling in Oregon [JURIST report] Monday. Since the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] last June that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] was unconstitutional, numerous state and federal courts have struck down same-sex marriage bans. Appeals have followed, and many speculate that the issue will wind up before the US Supreme Court.