Pennsylvania Same Sex Marriage Legal Developments

Tensions are up in PA regarding the defense of Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act. Montgomery County Register of Wills began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Governor proceeded to sue to prevent the issuance of these marriage licenses, which the Register of Wills said was his way to be on the right side of history and to attack a law which, to his mind, was unconstitutional.

The newest battle involves the ACLU lawsuit that was filed, challenging the Defense of Marriage law itself. Last month, in response to the lawsuit, Attorney General Kathleen Kane declined to defend the law, which she also believed, in her capacity as a lawyer and Attorney General, was unconstitutional. Upon releasing her decision, she informed the Governor’s Office of General Counsel, so that they would be able to present a defense of the law themselves. At first, the Governor’s Office of General Counsel (a part of the executive branch) attempted to assert that the Attorney General (an independent agency) had an obligation to defend the law, but ultimately the Governor’s office will defend the law itself.

The outcome of this case could have large implications for the future of same-sex marriage in this state. While there is a statutory bar on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, if the state Supreme Court considered the case and determined that it was unconstitutional , then same-sex marriages would likely be allowed to occur immediately. However, if the Supreme Court either declines to take the case or decides that the marriage ban is constitutional, then same sex marriage rights in Pennsylvania will be held back.

There are many routes that this question could take to get to the Supreme Court, which is the likely end-point for the resolution of this matter. The Montgomery County marriage licenses could also be a path for same sex marriage rights to make it to the Court. Similar to the Plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case U.S. v. Windsor, the couples who received marriage licenses, should they have their licenses taken away or they are denied benefits when filing taxes this year, would have a legal injury for which they could have legal standing to sue.

Our Pittsburgh family lawyers are keeping current on all the forthcoming legal developments regarding same sex marriage rights in Pennsylvania, as well as all other new developments in PA family law. Contact our experienced Pittsburgh family lawyers today!

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