Whitewood v. Wolf

The Path to Victory:

On May 20, 2014, Judge John E. Jones III, a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, striking down Pennsylvania's ban on marriage for same-sex couples in this case filed by the  American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. The ruling did not come with a stay attached, and same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses immediately. 

On May 21, Gov. Tom Corbett announced that he would not appeal the marriage ruling, meaning that the Whitewood decision would remain in effect and Pennsylvania would become the 19th state with the freedom to marry. 

Case Background:

On July 9, 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller filed a federal lawsuit in the 3rd Circuit on behalf of 23 Pennsylvania residents seeking the freedom to marry in the state.

Two days later, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, announced that she will not defend Pennsylvania's state statute banning the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, explaining, “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA. I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional.”

The state moved to dismiss the case, but in November U.S. District Judge John Jones III denied the request. The judge scheduled the trial to begin on June 9, 2014 in Harrisburg.

After the discovery period, both sides agreed that there was no need for a trial - the state of PA did not contest any of the facts that the plaintiffs proposed, and the state had no witnesses opposed to the freedom to marry to bring forward. On April 21, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the judge to rule on the briefs alone and forgo the trial that had been scheduled for June 9. 

Palladino v. Corbett

What's Happening:

A federal judge heard oral arguments in this case seeking respect for marriages performed legally in other states on May 15, 2014. In light of the Whitewood ruling, in which a federal judge struck down anti-marriage laws in PA, it is likely that this case will not be ruled on. 

Case Background:

On August 28, 2013, private lawyers, sponsored by the Equality Forum, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a same-sex couple married in Massachusetts who sought to have their out-of-state marriage respected by their home state.

The plaintiffs, Isabelle Barker and Cara Palladino, married in Massachusetts in 2005 after being together as a couple since 1998. Shortly after marrying, they relocated to Pennsylvania. Both women now work at Bryn Mawr College and are raising their four-year-old son in the Philadelphia area. 

On January 14, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment in the case. 

Pennsylvania Health Dept. v. Hanes

What's Happening:

This case filed in PA state court is against County Clerk Bruce Hanes, who began issuing marriage license to same-sex couples in Montgomery County in July 2013. A trial court judge ruled in September that Hanes did not have authority to issue the marriage licenses, and Hanes has appealed.

Case Background:

In July 2013, the Pennsylvania Health Department filed a lawsuit in state court against Montgomery County Clerk Bruce Hanes, who decided that month to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the county. In a few weeks time, he had issued over 160 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the Health Department sued in order to force him to comply with Pennsylvania law, which restricts marriage to different-sex couples. 

On August 20, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, a statewide intermediate appellate court, agreed to hear a challenge, and it heard oral arguments on September 4, 2013. On September 13, the trial court ruled that Hanes did not have authority to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of the law in Pennsylvania that restricts marriage to different-sex couples.

On December 3, lawyers for Bruce Hanes filed a brief in the appeal of the case to the state Supreme Court. The brief explains that the court order to stop issuing marriage licenses forced him to violate his oath of office by complying with a law he thinks is unconstitutional. 

On January 16, 2014, Governor Corbett and PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane were removed as defendants and replaced by the PA Health Secretary.

Ballen v. Corbett

What's Happening:

This case filed in PA state court seeks respect for more than 160 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Montgomery County, PA. The case was filed on September 25.

Case Background:

On September 25, 2013, private lawyers filed a state lawsuit on behalf of twenty-one same-sex couples who were issued marriage licenses by Montgomery County Clerk Bruce Hanes in the summer of 2013. The couples filed the petition to have their marriages respected as legal and valid. 

These same couples were previously denied a request to intervene in Pennsylvania Health Dept. v. Hanes.

Baus v. Gibbs

What's Happening:

This case was filed in federal court on behalf of a widow seeking equal treatment under Pennsylvania's inheritance tax laws.

Case Background:

On October 25, 2013, private lawyers filed a petition in the court of common pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania on behalf of Barbara Alma Baus, who was forced to pay a 15 percent tax on items she owned jointly with her spouse, who passed away in September 2012, even though different-sex couples pay nothing. The lawsuit seeks equal treatment under Pennsylvania's inheritance tax laws and challenges the state's marriage laws, which exclude same-sex couples. 

The plaintiff, Barbara Baus, is mourning the loss of her wife, Catherine Burgi-Rios, who died of leiukemia in September 2012. The couple married on April 29, 2011 in Connecticut and had lived together for more than 15 years. They jointly owned their home, cars, and bank accounts. 

The petition argues that the PA Department of Revenue's failure to respect her marriage violates both the Pennsylvania Constitution and the United States Constitution's commitment to equal protection under the law. 

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