ACLU Files Federal Lawsuit for Marriage Equality in Pennsylvania

By now, you’ve probably heard the big news – the ACLU has filed suit in federal court on behalf of 11 plaintiffs, challenging the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania DOMA. Six of the plaintiffs are PA couples who cannot marry in their state of residence and 5 are couples or individuals who married out of state and cannot access the full benefits of marriage because they live in PA (one is a widow whose spouse died.)

Photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The ACLU is also planning big pushes in North Carolina and Virginia.

Today, also, Freedom to Marry unveiled their new nationwide strategy  to achieve, by 2016:

  • A majority of Americans living in a freedom to marry state.
  • Public support at greater than 60%.
  • An end to federal marriage discrimination through full repeal of DOMA and equal treatment of all marriages for all federal programs and purposes, throughout the country.

Freedom to Marry is working to win four states by 2013/2014 – Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon – and laying the groundwork to win at least six more states by 2015-2016 (some mix of Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia), while teeing up states for post-2016 (and recognizing that others could be added to the mix based on changing circumstances). With strategic lawsuits to be filed, Freedom to Marry will continue to work closely with our legal partners on state-specific public engagement strategies.

So what does this all mean?

It means Pennsylvania is in the game, but it could be 2 or more years before we can expect results. That’s very optimistic, but it seems PA is winnable through the courts whereas any hope of almost anything gay positive from Harrisburg is guaranteed to depress the hopeful.

Some claim that forces are aligning to bring a Supreme Court showdown in 4-5 years, a showdown when the Court is ready to recognize a national freedom to marry.

Now I have some doubt – hear me out.

My first concern is that we have very little on the ground organizing in PA’s LGBTQ community, especially Western Pennsylvania. That means we have very little resources and all of them are needed to address discrimination on a statewide level via HB 300. I’m very concerned that people will not fund that advocacy effort in favor of marriage.

My second concern is that people are announcing their engagements and launching all sorts of efforts to change the remaining portion of DOMA. What I don’t see are people discussing good LGBTQ family law attornies or CPAs or such. I don’t see seminars being scheduled or suggestions offered. I don’t see effective efforts to target key lawmakers. I don’t see any of this (because we have no ground game) and I’m still concerned people are going to get themselves gay-married without being able to get gay-divorced. OR that they will get themselves in gay-IRS trouble because TurboTax won’t be able to manage a return in 2014.

My final concern (for now) is that we are relying very heavily on a certain family structure to win these cases – the DOMA laws are unfair to children in same sex families. Well, what about the message that sends to children in other types of non-traditional families? What about same sex adult who do not have children? I’m a little leery of this approach – even if it does work – because its predicated on our roles as parents, not as individuals citizens in this Republic.

In two weeks, we’ll celebrate our tenth anniversary and I absolutely would like to be able to have marriage on the table for us to decide/discuss.


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