Pennsylvania gay marriage ban overturned by judge
By Maryclaire Dale, AP
May 22, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
PHILADELPHIA--Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage was overturned Tuesday by a federal judge in a decision that makes same-sex marriage legal throughout the Northeast.
Pennsylvania was the last remaining state to outlaw gay marriage in the Northeast, a region that tends to be socially liberal and Democratic. An appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is likely. If the decision stands, Pennsylvania would become the 19th state to legalize gay marriage.
State marriage bans have been falling around the U.S., including in several socially conservative states, since the Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in a landmark ruling. Oregon became the 18th state on Monday, when jubilant couples began applying for marriage licenses immediately after a federal judge issued a ruling that invalidated that state's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban.
The issue of state marriage bans is ultimately expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge John Jones decision Tuesday was a victory for 11 couples, a widow and one of the couples' two teenage daughters who filed the first challenge to the law. Gov. Tom Corbett's office had defended the law after the state's attorney general called it unconstitutional and refused to defend it.
"We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history," Jones wrote of the 1996 state ban. Jones, a Republican, was appointed by former President George W. Bush.
County offices in Philadelphia stayed open late to handle marriage applications, while officials in Pittsburgh were closed for elections but accepting them online. Couples must wait three days before getting married, unless a sympathetic judge grants a waiver.