On May 20, 2014, the Honorable John E. Jones III, a U.S. Federal District Court Judge in Pennsylvania, ruled that the statutory ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Since 1996, Pennsylvania law prevented two people of the same sex from marrying and prohibited the recognition of civil unions and same-sex marriages performed in other states. The Pennsylvania legislature had previously declared a public policy to recognize only a marriage between “one man and one woman,” and the statute went as far as to proclaim same-sex marriages in other jurisdictions to be “void.”
Gay rights advocates challenged the Pennsylvania law as a violation of the constitutional rights of equal protection and due process, protesting greater income and inheritance taxes, limited Social Security benefits, and health care access rights that were more restrictive than those available to unmarried individuals.
As support for their position, the plaintiffs relied on the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, seeking to strike down the law as discriminatory.
The U.S. Supreme Court granted full federal recognition to married same-sex couples in the Windsor decision which found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be an unconstitutional violation of equal protection of the law.
The decision allowed married gay couples to enjoy the same federal benefits as their heterosexual counterparts by overruling DOMA’s restrictions.
Since Windsor, federal courts in many states have reacted by declaring their own same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional, and some federal judges have ruled that same-sex marriages in other states must be recognized as valid. Judge Jones continued this trend, providing, “we now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of marriage.”
Judge Jones enjoined the enforcement of the Pennsylvania Marriage Laws as written, prohibiting what he described as an inappropriate, discriminatory classification on the basis of sexual orientation.
If you are considering marriage or have already been married in another state, contact The Mazza Law Group, P.C. to learn more about how this decision may affect your legal rights regarding estate and tax planning, property ownership, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, adoption, health care and many other areas of the law.
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