The Legal Battle Over Gay Marriage Is Not Over in Pennsylvania

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Despite gay marriage's national progress, many states, including Pennsylvania, are still stuck in legal battles over the issue. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's administration sued a Montgomery County clerk Tuesday for illegally issuing 34 marriage licenses to same-sex couples over the last week. The clerk, D. Bruce Hanes, said he wanted to "come down on the right side of history and the law." The same day, the governor's office announced it will defend the state's same-sex marriage ban in a suit brought by the ACLU after state Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to defend it. These conflicts illustrate that the fight for marriage rights in the state is far from over.

Pennsylvania is currently the only northeastern state to ban gay marriage. The law's been on the books since 1996, and some state representatives who voted for it at the time now say their views on the issue have evolved. State Rep. Michael McGeehan told the Associated Press, "If it was 1996 again, I wish I would have made another decision." Kane, for her part, thinks the law “violates the due process and equal protection provisions of the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions and is therefore not enforceable.” 

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Corbett and his general counsel, James Schultz, have a tough road ahead of them defending the law. After Kane declined to defend the ban, Schultz said her "unprecedented public adjudication of the statute's alleged unconstitutionality . . .  places any lawyer defending the case at a disadvantage from the outset."

Schultz is right — House Republicans did not have an easy time defending DOMA once President Obama declined to defend it. Of course, they eventually gave up after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in June. 

A Franklin & Marshall College poll conducted in May shows that 54 percent of Pennsylvanians think same-sex marriage should be legal. This is up from 33 percent in 2006. The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump concluded in June that Pennsylvania is the 8th most likely state to legalize gay marriage that hasn't already. It just might be a legal headache getting there. 

PHOTO: Ellen Toplin and Charlene Kurland obtaining a marriage license in Montgomery County on July 24, via Associated Press.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.