ACLU files marriage lawsuit in Pennsylvania

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that lawyers from the ACLU, ACLU Pennsylvania, and the firm of Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin, & Schiller have filed a federal lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on behalf of 21 residents who either wish to marry or receive benefits for marriages performed in other states.

Pennsylvania passed its own so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," which has no relation to the federal "Defense of Marriage Act," of which a major portion was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last month. The Pennsylvania act specifically prohibits marriage for same-gender couples, as well as the recognition of such marriages performed elsewhere. However, Pennsylvania's constitution has no such ban: two anti-marriage amendments have been proposed in the past, and both have failed to pass. The lawsuit filed by the ACLU claims that the Pennsylvania Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The lawsuit includes ten couples and one woman, Maureen Hennessy, whose spouse Mary Beth died in May of 2013. The couples are of various class and racial backgrounds, genders, and ages. Some have married in other states and would simply like legal recognition, while others, like Ron Gebhardtsbauer and Greg Wright, are waiting to marry in their home state. Some of the couples with children have been adversely affected by their lack of legal protection, as has Maureen, who did not receive spousal benefits when Mary Beth passed away.