Same-Sex Marriage

The Pittsburgh Presbytery on Thursday narrowly voted to ratify the church’s national constitution to allow pastors to conduct and churches to host same-sex marriages.

The measure proposed last fall by the church’s General Assembly received enough approval from the 171 presbyteries throughout the country to ratify the constitution in March, but not all had voted before the May 15 deadline. Clergy and lay representatives voted 122-110 in favor with three abstaining.

Last week, Allegheny County announced that all same-sex partners of county employees would have their domestic partner benefits cut off effective July 31.

Following an outcry from advocates and some receiving benefits that 30 days was not enough time to arrange for new coverage and/or legally marry, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has now extended the cut-off date to June 30, 2015.

Flickr user Gexydaf

Allegheny County announced last week plans to cut off benefits to same-sex partners of its employees. The move was made because same-sex couples can now marry in Pennsylvania. Same-sex couples receiving benefits from Allegheny County must now show proof of marriage, or lose their domestic partner benefits.

It’s not so much the cutting off of benefits that has some worried, but the timeline. The benefits will be terminated August 1, giving employees and their partners little more than a month to arrange for new coverage, or get legally married.

An Update on PA's Non-Discrimination Legislation

Jun 19, 2014
Erin Molchany / Twitter

“Marriage equality is now a reality in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but at the end of the day you can still be fired for putting your wedding photo on your desk,” says State Representative Erin Molchany.

With a lack of legislative protections, same-sex couples in many parts of PA still face legal discrimination in the workplace, when it comes to housing, and in public accommodations.

“I would imagine that a state that does not have these kinds of protections would not be marketable to attracting talent, for businesses, employees,” Molchany said.

The federal judge who struck down Pennsylvania's law banning recognition of same-sex marriage says he saw no proof that same-sex marriage destroys the strength of families.

Judge John E. Jones III spoke Monday on WITF-FM's hour-long show "Smart Talk."

He was responding to a statement by Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh read to him by the show's host. But Jones says a link between family strength and same-sex marriage hasn't been proven.

Gay rights advocates are hoping the same-sex marriage ruling in Pennsylvania paves the way for laws to prohibit bias against residents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.  

Identical bills in the state House and Senate would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians from being discriminated in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Equality PA director Ted Martin said about 30 percent of the state has such protections in place at the municipal level, but his group is seeking a state law.

Overturning Pennsylvania's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

May 22, 2014
Lindsey B / Flickr

“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” wrote Judge John E. Jones III in his Tuesday ruling, ending Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. 

It was a sudden, entirely unexpected ruling from a judge appointed by President George W. Bush and endorsed by Rick Santorum. The public was further surprised when Republican Governor Tom Corbett decided not to appeal the decision.

The ruling was met with jubilation by same-sex couples across the state, who can now marry, and for those who married out-of-state and want their union recognized in PA.

Asserting human rights or disregarding democracy? 

Pennsylvania's governor says he won't appeal a court decision that struck down the state's gay marriage ban.

Gov. Tom Corbett's decision Wednesday means that same-sex marriage will remain legal in Pennsylvania, without the threat that a higher court will reinstate the ban.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III struck down Pennsylvania's 1996 law banning recognition of gay marriage, calling it unconstitutional.

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Update (3:09 p.m.): Pennsylvania Won't Appeal Same-Sex Marriage Case

In overturning Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III concluded his nearly 40-page decision stating: “We are better people that what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage was overturned by a federal judge Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III called the plaintiffs — a widow, 11 couples and one of the couples' two teenage daughters — courageous.

"We now join the 12 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," Jones wrote.

An Update On The Fight For Marriage Equality In Pennsylvania

Apr 24, 2014
Emmanuel Huybrechts / Flickr

There may not be a trial to decide whether the state's same-sex marriage ban is constitutional. The plaintiffs argued the state isn't disputing their facts and hasn't identified an expert witness, so a judge can toss the ban out without a trial.

Plaintiffs challenging the Pennsylvania law that bans same-sex marriage say there’s no need for a June trial and want a federal court judge to issue an immediate decision.

Vic Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs in January filed a list of experts with the court but the commonwealth indicated it would not provide witnesses to refute the plaintiffs’ witnesses.

Pennsylvania remains the only mid-Atlantic state that bans gay marriage, but several court fights this year could change that.

In Philadelphia, a federal judge has been asked to order Pennsylvania to recognize same-sex marriages from elsewhere.

Lead plaintiffs Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker have been married nine years. They believe most people don't see same-sex marriage as an issue anymore.

A February poll by Quinnipiac University shows that 57 percent of state voters support same-sex marriage, while 37 percent are opposed.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

As delivery men carried large bouquets of roses to various offices at the City County Building  in downtown Pittsburgh on Valentine’s Day, supporters of same-sex marriage and several couples gathered to apply for marriage licenses.

“We know that they will be denied,” said Melissa Watson with the Allegheny County chapter of Marriage Equality for PA, “They will not be allowed to get them, but we hope to show Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh and Allegheny County that we’re ready.”

At 10:00 AM two couples arrived ready to apply for their marriage licenses. One of those couples was

The U.S. Supreme Court’s striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) might have same-sex married couples worried about what changes are in store for them this tax season. But Joseph Nicola of Sisterson & Co., a Pittsburgh accounting firm, says filing shouldn’t be any more difficult than last year.

Nicola said the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor means that married same-sex couples can take advantage of more benefits.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Marriage matters to Diane Polson and Dawn Plummer.

They have been together for 13 years, but the state will not allow them to marry. Same-sex marriage is legal in 16 states and Washington, D.C., but Pennsylvania is not one of them.

While a challenge to Pennsylvania’s marriage law makes its way through the courts, the ACLU launched its Why Marriage Matters campaign Wednesday.

Polson and Plummer are now plaintiffs in the ACLU’s lawsuit, a decision sparked by their 5-year-old son Elijah.

A Virtual Time Capsule of Pittsburgh's LGBT Nightlife

Oct 10, 2013
Center for the Arts in Society / CMU

Harrison Apple has been exploring the underground. In speakeasies, bathhouses and after hours clubs, he’s found a hypothetical time capsule of a rich gay nightlife in Pittsburgh between 1960 and 1990.

Now as Artist in Residence at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for the Arts, Harrison not only exhibits his own work, but has been successful in bringing award-winning author and gay rights historian George Chauncey to CMU’s 2013 Kim and Eric Giler lecture in the humanities Thursday afternoon.

The Future of Anti-Discrimination Laws in Pennsylvania

Oct 9, 2013
Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

When the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June, a number of Pennsylvania couples began challenging the state’s defense of marriage law in the courts.

If the law is struck down without legislation, according to two state legislators, certain protections will need to be in place.

In many Pennsylvania towns, the LGBT community is faced with a catch-22: although there are anti-discrimination laws for race, religion, sex, ethnicity etc., sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected. Cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have their own specific laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, but a large portion of the state does not.

Rep. Sims: Same-Sex Marriage 'Inevitable' in PA

Oct 9, 2013

State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), the first openly gay member of the General Assembly, said same-sex marriage “will become law” in Pennsylvania, either through legislation or judicial action.

Sims spoke Wednesday with Essential Pittsburgh about his LGBT anti-discrimination legislation and marriage equality bill.

He said most believe gay marriage will someday become legal in Pennsylvania, which is the only state in the Northeast without laws providing for civil unions or same-sex marriage.

Pennsylvania state government's top-ranking openly gay official says she's saddened by Gov. Tom Corbett's comments about gay marriage.

"I work for a governor that, I believe, has done a great disservice to the commonwealth," said Terry Mutchler, head of the Office of Open Records, veering from her typical talking points about government transparency in a speech she gave to archivists and historians Monday.

Pennsylvania's governor says he's sorry if anyone was offended when he compared gay marriage to the marriage of a brother and sister during a TV interview.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett issued a statement Friday saying his "words were not intended to offend anyone" and apologizing if they did.

Corbett says his comment during the WHP-TV morning news interview was meant to provide an example of the categories of people who aren't legally entitled to obtain marriage licenses in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court could be the next stop for a suburban Philadelphia county's battle to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Montgomery County said Tuesday that its solicitor, Ray McGarry, will appeal a state judge's order stopping a court clerk from issuing the licenses.

McGarry says he'll file the appeal in the next several days on behalf of Bruce Hanes, the register of wills.

A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday ordered a suburban Philadelphia clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini said Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes did not have the power to decide on his own whether Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban violates the state constitution.

Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

One of the many issues a state judge must wrestle with in a case of Montgomery County-issued same-sex marriage licenses is: who has legal standing?

Thirty-two same-sex couples say they do, and should therefore be able to join a lawsuit launched by the Corbett administration aiming to enforce Pennsylvania’s gay marriage ban.

Bolton Winpenny, a computer programmer, says he and his partner married in Harrisburg shortly after receiving their marriage license in Montgomery County in July.

Doug Muth / Wikipedia

Officials in Montgomery County have issued more than 100 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and currently Pennsylvania has a law that deems same-sex marriage illegal.

The question many are asking is what will happen to these marriage licenses? Jules Lobel, a constitutional law Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, attempts to give some insight on the marriage licenses.

A state judge has heard arguments over jurisdiction and other matters in the case of a county court official’s decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Commonwealth lawyers are trying to stop the practice, arguing they were distributed in violation of Pennsylvania’s law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Lawyers for Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes said his actions are defensible on the basis they uphold the U.S. and state constitutions.

A Pennsylvania judge is promising to rule quickly on whether a county clerk should be ordered to stop handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini did not signal what direction he might rule as lawyers debated the actions of Bruce Hanes, who issues licenses in suburban Philadelphia.

Arguments lasted over an hour, with lawyers for Gov. Tom Corbett's administration saying Hanes' decision is not allowed under state law.

Attorneys for Pennsylvania's Republican governor say marriage licenses given to same-sex couples in the state are invalid because the couples were barred from marrying — just like "12-year-olds."

Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has filed a lawsuit seeking to block same-sex marriage licenses in Montgomery County.

State attorneys say in a Wednesday court filing the licenses have no "legitimacy." They compare gay and lesbian couples to children, who can't marry because a 1996 law says marriage is between a man and a woman.

John Kandray and Bill Gray of Pittsburgh have been together for 11 years and were one of several same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license from Montgomery County.

On Monday night the two were wed in a ceremony officiated by Braddock Mayor John Fetterman. But a state law is in place that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

“I’m urging Gov. Tom Corbett to tear down this law and replace it with marriage equality for all Pennsylvanians,” Fetterman said. “The law just has no place in 2013.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Two weeks after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned key provisions in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The 23 plaintiffs, including 10 same-sex couples, one widow, and two teenage children of one of the couples, say they've seen firsthand the inequality of PA law in its discrimination against same-sex couples. 

ACLU Staff Attorney Molly Tack-Hooper and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, Anthony Infanti, weigh in on the legality of the lawsuit and the path for equality in Pennsylvania paved by the repeal of DOMA.

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