Federal judge rules same-sex marriage ban in Pennsylvania is unconstitutional

Updated 8:06 PM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
01:06 - Source: KYW
Same-sex marriages begin in Pennsylvania

Story highlights

NEW: Judge: "We are a better people than what these laws represent"

NEW: Group slams ruling, urges governor to "give marriage the defense it requires"

NEW: Governor is "reviewing the decision," expected to make statement Wednesday

Federal judges in several other states similarly struck down such bans

CNN —  

A federal judge struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, making it the latest in a host of states in which such prohibitions have been declared unconstitutional in the past year.

As with many of those previous rulings, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones cited the constitutional touchstones of due process and equal protection in striking down the prohibition.

“In future generations, the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage,” Jones wrote. “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

Other courts’ decisions have been stayed, pending appeals – meaning gay and lesbian couples can’t marry in those states until an appeals court weighs in. Same-sex couples in Oregon began getting marriage licenses Monday after a similar federal court ruling, which that state did not appeal though the National Organization for Marriage subsequently did.

Jones issued an order Tuesday permanently barring authorities in Pennsylvania from preventing same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses. That means people could apply for licenses right away, even if weddings don’t happen so fast: Pennsylvania has a waiting period of three business days between applying for and obtaining a marriage license.

As Jones explained, “By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”

Jones’ ruling still can be appealed.

Gov. Tom Corbett tweeted early Tuesday evening that he “is in the process of thoroughly reviewing the decision of the court,” adding that a statement is anticipated Wednesday.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane earlier made her own definitive statement, saying she will “not … defend Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act because I made a legal determination as to the unconstitutionality of this law.”