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Suit Seeks Shorter Timetable for PA Same-Sex Marriage Ban Challenge

PHOTO: Plaintiffs trying to overturn Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage are asking a judge to decide the case on the basis of legal briefs alone, rather than a public trial. Photo credit: Karen Arnold, publicdomainpictures.net.
PHOTO: Plaintiffs trying to overturn Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage are asking a judge to decide the case on the basis of legal briefs alone, rather than a public trial. Photo credit: Karen Arnold, publicdomainpictures.net.
April 23, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Same-sex couples who want to marry in Pennsylvania, and others looking for the state to recognize their unions are hoping to speed up the process and get on with their lives.

Lawyers challenging Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban have asked a federal judge to decide the case based on legal briefs rather than holding a trial. The suit is from the ACLU of Pennsylvania and other parties, including volunteer lawyers John Stapleton and Helen Casale of the firm Hangley Aronchick.

Stapleton said the move is about preserving some core constitutional values of the plaintiffs in the case.

"What we're trying to do for our clients, and as well as all same-sex couples in Pennsylvania, is bring the freedom to marry sooner rather than later," he said.

Along with the motion, a report was filed outlining the disadvantages same-sex couples face in estate planning, taxes, health care and family law - as well as the economic impact on business in the state - because of the ban.

Casale said the motion in no way leaves the judge with less material to consider, especially since the state agrees that a trial is unnecessary.

"He's going to have all of the declarations, all of the testimony. He has all the information with respect to what our experts would have testified about," she said. "So, rather than him hearing that live in open court, he's going to have the opportunity to read those declarations and take that same information into account."

Casale said the plaintiffs in the case have made it clear how the situation affects them, including one man who married his longtime partner in Maine and says his "heart drops" when he returns home to Pennsylvania.

"What we're trying to do is hope that our client, who said that can feel like when he drives back into Pennsylvania that he's coming home, and that his home is going to recognize him for who he is just like in any other state," she said.

Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA