“We now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage,” Jones wrote.
Jones ruled that Pennsylvania’s 1996 law banning same-sex marriage and recognizing same-sex marriage from other states unconstitutional. Jones was appointed to the bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush.
“[W]e hold that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Laws violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because these laws are unconstitutional, we shall enter an order permanently enjoining their enforcement. By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”
The Whitewood v. Wolf case was filed by the ACLU last July. Attorney General Kathleen Kane did not defend the case because she felt the law was unconstitutional.
Update: Attorney General Kathleen Kane released the following statement in praise of the decision:
“This is an historic day. More importantly, today brings justice to Pennsylvanians who have suffered from unequal protection under the law because of their sexual orientation. When state-sponsored inequality exists, citizens are deprived of the full protections that the Constitution guarantees. Our Commonwealth progressed today and so have the hopes and dreams of many who suffer from inequality.
Today, in Pennsylvania, the Constitution prevailed. Inequality in any form is unacceptable and it has never stood the test of time. I have remained steadfast in my decision not to defend Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act because I made a legal determination as to the unconstitutionality of this law. I am pleased that a learned legal mind such as Judge Jones ruled similarly.”
Update 2: The full opinion is accessible here. Additionally, Judge Jones issued an order that prevents any stay for the ban. Therefore, the ruling takes effect immediately. The order can be read here.
Update 3: The Pennsylvania Republican Party released the following statement in response to the ruling:
“Today, an activist judiciary has substituted its judgment in place of the law created by the elected representatives of Pennsylvania and has stifled the ongoing debate of people with differing points of view,” Gleason said. “The questions that face our commonwealth are best aired in the legislature with the representatives of the people. This complete disregard of the important roles held by each branch of government is just another reason why we need to elect principled people to office to uphold our Constitution.
“Grassroots activists came together in 2012 to debate and form our Republican Party Platform, which clearly supports the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
“We believe all Pennsylvanians deserve dignity and respect regardless of their beliefs on this issue. However, the citizens of the Commonwealth also deserved to be participants in the ongoing discussion rather than be dictated to by judicial fiat.”
Update 4: Gov. Corbett announced today he will not appeal the court’s ruling. Here is his full statement:
“I have thoroughly reviewed Judge Jones’ opinion in the Whitewood case. Given the high legal threshold set forth by Judge Jones in this case, the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal. Therefore, after review of the opinion and on the advice of my Commonwealth legal team, I have decided not to appeal Judge Jones’ decision.
“As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered. I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. My duties as Governor require that I follow the laws as interpreted by the Courts and make a judgment as to the likelihood of a successful appeal.
“Throughout the debate on this important and meaningful issue, I have maintained that Commonwealth officials and agencies would follow the provisions of Pennsylvania’s marriage law unless or until a court says otherwise. The court has spoken, and I will ensure that my administration follows the provisions of Judge Jones’ order with respect for all parties.
“It is my hope that as the important issue of same-sex relationships continues to be addressed in our society, that all involved be treated with respect.”