Pennsylvania court strikes down same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Judge John E. Jones III
Image: U.S. District Court Official Portrait.

A federal court struck down as unconstitutional Pennsylvania's 1996 law banning same-sex marriage today. Judge John E. Jones III has ordered the state to start issuing licenses for same-sex couples.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in July of last year. Lawyers argued the state's ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pennsylvania's attorney general, Kathleen Kane, did not attempt to defend the ban, and has said she considers the law unconstitutional. Kane said today's decision "brings justice to Pennsylvanians who have suffered from unequal protection under the law because of their sexual orientation".

Pennsylvania's governor, Tom Corbett, has not thus far responded to the ruling.

The decision in Pennsylvania followed a similar decision yesterday in Oregon striking down that state's marriage ban. Courts in a number of other states including Arkansas, Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah have found state-level bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, although some of these decisions have not led to gay, lesbian and bisexual couples being able to marry while appeals are ongoing.