The Pennsylvania Attorney General is declining to fight an ACLU lawsuit that is seeking to strike down Pennsylvania’s ban on same sex marriage. Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, said that she “cannot ethically defend Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).” The question then becomes, what does this mean for Pennsylvania same sex couples?
This Tuesday, July 9, 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in PA brought a lawsuit brought on behalf of 23 Pennsylvanians who are seeking the right to marry their same sex partners or to have their out-of-state same sex nuptials recognized within Pennsylvania. The ACLU lawsuit argues that Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA violates equal protection as well as the fundamental right to marry.
Historically, when Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA was being passed in the PA legislature, the state’s constitution was amended at this time to reflect that “marriage” is defined as a “civil contract” between “one man and one woman.” PA’s DOMA also makes clear that out-of-state same sex marriages are considered void under Pennsylvania Domestic Relations laws.
Attorney General Kane’s refusal to defend Pennsylvania’s same sex marriage ban is similar to the attorneys general in both Illinois and California who have made previous refusals to defend their state’s barriers to same sex marriage, as was reported by the New York Times.
Based on an article in the Washington Post, two of the Plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania ACLU suit are Helena Miller and Dara Raspberry, who were validly married in Connecticut in 2010. The couple moved to Philadelphia that same year to be closer to Miller’s family as they were planning on having children. Miller gave birth to the couple’s daughter, and while Raspberry would have been automatically named on the child’s birth certificate as the other parent in a state where same sex marriage was recognized and legal, this Pennsylvania couple now has to hire legal counsel in state and go through the process of stepparent adoption in Pennsylvania. The couple stated in the Washington Post article that they moved to PA and “effectively became unmarried.”
Questions about Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA and same sex legal arrangements in PA? Contact our same sex couples attorneys today!