The next phase of the battle over same-sex marriage has begun. The American Civil Liberties Union is bringing a lawsuit on behalf of twenty-three Pennsylvanians challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The move also has the aim of keeping the state’s GOP majority from mounting any further attempt to ban same-sex marriage in the state. Currently, the state’s Defense of Marriage Act prevents same-sex marriages inside the state and prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriages entered into in other states.
The suit’s plaintiffs comprise ten lesbian and gay couples as well as two children from another couple and a widow who was with her partner for twenty-nine years. According to one of the plaintiffs, Susan Whitewood, this is not about “legal validation,” and she told the Associated Press that “I wanted our relationship to be respected like everybody else’s relationship. That was first and foremost the reason for doing this.”
Anti-gay groups often try to couch the debate as one about benefits, but the reality is that this has always been about equality.
Witold “Vic” Walczak, the legal director of Pennsylvania ACLU, told reporters that “What we’re looking for is for the court to say: Here we are in the 21st century, and you cannot prohibit somebody from participating in this wonderful institution we call marriage.”
Currently, there are thirteen states which grant marriage rights to same-sex couples and 35 that ban it through state law or constitutional amendment. Of those thirty-five, seven have some form of civil union or domestic partnership. In New Jersey and New Mexico, there is no specific ban on same-sex couples getting married.