Pennsylvanians Sue to Overturn State's Gay-Marriage Ban

A group of Pennsylvanians backed by the American Civil Liberties Union sued Governor Thomas Corbett seeking to remove the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The ACLU said today that 23 plaintiffs including Deb and Susan Whitewood, a committed couple for 22 years, filed suit in federal court in Harrisburg to invalidate Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The filing couldn’t be immediately verified in court records.

“This law cannot stand under any level of scrutiny because excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not further any legitimate government interest,” Mark Aronchick, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement from the ACLU. “It serves only to insult and hurt lesbian and gay couples and their families.”

The complaint follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling striking down a law denying federal benefits to same-sex married couples. Advocates are seeking to expand the number of states where gay marriage is legal. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Corbett, a Republican, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the suit.

Bills Proposed

A bill introduced by Pennsylvania state Senator Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Wayne, that would provide full marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state was referred to a committee in March and never had a hearing. The Senate recessed last week and won’t return until September.

State Representative Brian Sims, the Philadelphia Democrat who became the first openly gay member elected to the Pennsylvania chamber last year, plans to introduce a similar bill, said his district coordinator, Tim Keller, today.

The ACLU is seeking a ruling that Pennsylvania’s marriage law is unconstitutional and an injunction against denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

The case is Whitewood v. Corbett, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg).

To contact the reporters on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at; Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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