This past Tuesday was a historic day for the state of Pennsylvania as the federal court struck down the statute preventing same-sex marriages and allowing marriage equality for all. Pennsylvania had been a notoriously conflicted state on the issue in the recent months due to its wide berth of political ideologies stretching across the keystone state and refusal of the legislature to make strides to repeal. The issue went to the courts after Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, of Montgomery County (a Philadelphia suburb) publically stated that he believed the Pennsylvania law was unconstitutional and would not enforce it. This incited a suit filed by the Govenor.
In the decision, Judge John F. Jones, who authored the opinion stated, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”
In the wake of the opinion, here are some things to consider:
1. The Decision Is Effective Immediately– unlike other similar opinions that were stayed pending appeal, Judge Jones’ decision went right into effect voiding the marriage ban as well as any recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.
2. Marriage Licenses are Available Immediately– Several agencies are staying open late or extending hours to accommodate the couples clammoring to take advantage of this new right. Philadelphia City Hall and the Register of Wills stayed open Tuesday until 5:30pm and had extended hours on Wednesday from 8:00am to 7:00pm.
3. Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages Are Now Recognized–Since the entire law is now considered void, this includes the out-of-state ban too. This is good news for those couples residing in Pennsylvania but who had to travel to New York or Massachuesetts to get their official licenses.
4. Pennsylvania Can Still Appeal- While state Attorney General Kane publically stated that she would not stand to defend the law, other state officials still have 30 days to appeal the decision. It remains unclear as to who would do so, but it could potentially be the Govenor.
5. A Stay Is Still Possible- While the judge refused to stay his order pending appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court court grant a stay as was done in Utah- effectively haulting all marriages. Stay tuned…