A federal judge declared Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional Tuesday, saying, “We are a better people than what these laws represent…it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”
The ruling by Judge John Jones III makes Pennsylvania the last Northeast state to allow same-sex marriages. Governor Tom Corbett technically can appeal the decision.
The ruling was the latest in a string of decisions in favor of same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court struck down major portions of a related federal law last year.
A group of 21 Pennsylvanians sued the state last July for the right to marry, but a 1996 state law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The PA American Civil Liberties Union took up the cause, asserting that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, its refusal to wed same-sex couples and failure to recognize their out-of-state marriages violated the basic right of marriage and did so by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Today’s ruling represents a significant victory for the ACLU and LGBT community in Pennsylvania, and a watershed event in the advancement of equal rights in the United States.