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Pennsylvania Governor Seeks to Dismiss Gay-Marriage Suit

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Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett asked a judge in Harrisburg to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for Corbett argued today in a court filing that the complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The request was filed in federal court in Harrisburg. A brief in support of the motion will be filed by Oct. 7, according to a court schedule.

Pennsylvania is under pressure to change a state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. At least four lawsuits have been filed by same-sex couples in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which denied federal benefits to married gay couples. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

The ACLU sued Corbett, a Republican, in federal court in July on behalf of 23 plaintiffs, including 10 couples and a widow, over the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The state’s Marriage Law was amended in 1996 to prohibit marriage for same-sex couples and bar recognition by the state of gay marriages established in other states.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, has said she won’t defend the ACLU’s challenge to the state’s ban, which she called “wholly unconstitutional.”

DOMA Ruling

A court official in the state’s Montgomery County issued more than 160 marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the DOMA ruling. A state appeals court on Sept. 12 ordered D. Bruce Hanes, the Orphans’ Court clerk in Norristown, Pennsylvania, to stop the practice and comply with state law. Hanes, an elected Democrat, said he may appeal the ruling to the state’s highest court.

Couples who received licenses from Hanes and married in July and August filed two lawsuits in state court seeking to overturn the ban. Another federal lawsuit was filed Sept. 26 in Philadelphia by a lesbian couple seeking recognition of their Massachusetts marriage.

The ACLU’s case is Whitewood v. Corbett, 13-cv-01861, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at spearson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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