Independence Day has come early in Pennsylvania! LGBTQ individuals are no longer second-class citizens in Pennsylvania and will be legally recognized as wholly legitimate and equal citizens; same-sex marriage is legal in the commonwealth!
Judge John E. Jones III declared yesterday that Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in Whitewood v. Wolf. His order directs the state to allow same-sex couples to marry and to recognize valid out-of-state marriages. The losing side in Whitewood v. Wolf now has 30 days to decide whether to appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania was the only state in the Northeast that didn’t allow marriage equality. It is entirely possible that this could be a deciding factor in it not being appealed. Gov. Corbett, who likened gay marriage to incest back in October 2013, could appeal, but since the commonwealth defendants agreed to summary judgment in the case rather than going to trial, one would hope this wouldn’t be the case.
What we know to be true is that EVERY ruling since Utah has been stayed pending appeals … until Oregon this week. Oregon, which received a similar ruling less, had its order appealed, yet the appeal was instantaneously shot down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and marriage licenses were issued immediately to same-sex couples.
Jones could therefore put his ruling on hold during the appeal. Absent such a stay, same-sex couples could race out to seek marriage licenses yesterday afternoon, and the Philadelphia Register of Wills office opened today a 8 a.m. and was planning on staying open until 7 p.m. to accommodate just such a rush. State law requires a 72 hours waiting period before couples marry, although that rule can be waived by a judge.
Windsor v. United States has created a domino effect around the nation and there is no turning back as judge after judge decides to stand on the right side of history. These rulings are leading up to an inevitable return to the U.S. Supreme Court where they will hopefully echo their ruling in Windsor and declare marriage equality throughout the country. That day will come.
In the meantime, I had the pleasure of speaking personally with Edie Windsor of the aforementioned Windsor v. United States during her recent trip to Philadelphia who said that she WILL be returning back to her hometown to celebrate with us all! Whether the decision is appealed or not: decision day in Pennsylvania’s fight for marriage equality has arrived!
Angela Giampolo is the principal of Giampolo Law Group, which specializes in LGBT law, business law, real estate law and civil rights and maintains offices in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey