Does this sound familiar? Earlier this week, a federal judge in Pennsylvania struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, paving the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in-state, and for out-of-state same-sex marriages to finally be recognized. The ruling echoes a similar court decision made last October in New Jersey legalizing same-sex marriage.
Pennsylvania became the 19th state to allow same-sex marriage, joining eight others in the Northeast, including not only New Jersey, but New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. In the groundbreaking decision, U.S. District Judge John Jones III used much of the same reasoning as did his fellow jurists dealing with similar state bans across the nation. As the LA Times reports:
Jones ruled that Pennsylvania’s ban violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
“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 civil marriage,” Jones wrote.
Jones declined to issue a stay of his ruling, allowing officials to begin issuing marriage licenses. Atty. Gen. Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, has refused to defend the ban, leaving it to Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, to pursue the case.
What does this mean for couples in New Jersey? Prior to this ruling, if a same sex couple married in New Jersey and moved to Pennsylvania, their marriage would not be recognized, placing couples essentially back in square one with regards to marital rights and benefits. Those couples who decided to divorce likewise faced extremely limited options. These roadblocks, however, are now lifted. As of this morning, Governor Corbett says he will not challenge the ruling, meaning that same sex couples in Pennsylvania now enjoy the same rights and privileges of heterosexual couples when it comes to marriage and divorce.
In a same-sex relationship and have specific questions about your legal union? For more on same sex issues in New Jersey, please see our featured section on same-sex marriage, divorce and civi unions.