A group of Pennsylvanians and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit Tuesday in federal court to have same sex marriage declared legal in the state or to have their out-of-state same sex marriages recognized in Pennsylvania. According to a press release from the ACLU, Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act, passed by the state legislature in 1996, is a violation of the plaintiffs' fundamental right to marry, as well as of the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Among the 23 plaintiffs are 10 couples, two minor children and one recently bereaved widow who lost her partner of 29 years, all seeking to have their families legally recognized by the state government. Tuesday's suit comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, the historic June ruling that struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
"We only want what every married couple wants – to express our love and commitment in front of friends and family, and the security and protections that only marriage provides," said plaintiff Deb Whitewood in the ACLU release. Deb Whitewood has been with her partner Susan for 22 years. "Our life is built around our relationship and the family we have made," she said.
Calling Pennsylvania "the cradle of American liberty," ACLU state executive director Reggie Shuford said, "(I)t is shameful that Pennsylvania denies some families the dignity and respect that can only come with marriage. It's wrong that the state where these couples live, work, and raise families treats them as second-class couples."
A volunteer team of attorneys from the firm Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin and Schiller filed the case alongside the ACLU. The ACLU is currently filing similar lawsuits in North Carolina and Virginia.
[image of lesbian couple in rickshaw at NYC Pride 2013 via Shutterstock.com]