Pennsylvania’s seventeen-year-old ban on same-sex marriage may finally be put to rest thanks to a significant step forward in a lawsuit that challenges the ban, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in July.
Plaintiffs for the lawsuit—which was at risk of dismissal until District Judge John E. Jones III rejected two motions to block the challenge—include eleven couples and a widow.
Jones wrote a ten-page decision in which he refutes the defendant’s assertion that his court is incapable of hearing the case, a claim based on the United States Supreme Court ‘s 1972 decision in which the court decided it could not hear an appeal to a Minnesota court ruling regarding a state ban on same sex marriage. Jones argues that the Supreme Court has advanced greatly in the past forty years.
“The jurisprudence of equal protection and substantive due process has undergone what can only be characterized as a sea change since 1972,” wrote Jones.
A conference to discuss a trial date has been scheduled for November 22. Jones recommends that the lawyers come “fully prepared.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are elated by Judge Jones’ choice.
“The important thing is we are moving toward having our clients get their day in court and we look forward to demonstrating why our clients’ loving families are no different than any other and are entitled to equal dignity under the law,” said one of the lawyers for the ACLU, Witold J. Walczack.
A spokesman for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said administration lawyers are still reviewing Jones’ decision, and have not yet decided whether or not they will file an appeal.
Pennsylvania’s ban has been in place since 1996, and it is the only state in the Northeast that bars same-sex marriage.