Independence Day has come early in Pennsylvania! LGBTQ individuals are no longer second-class citizens in Pennsylvania and will be legally recognized as wholly legitimate and equal citizens; same-sex marriage is legal in the commonwealth! Judge John E. Jones III declared yesterday that Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, ruling in Read more…
The fight for marriage equality in Pennsylvania may finally be coming to an end. There are multiple same-sex marriage cases that have been filed in Pennsylvania, but the American Civil Liberties Union and Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller’s Whitewood v. Wolf, No. 13-1861-JEJ, filed a motion for summary judgment April 21 that was not contested. The case was brought on behalf of 21 plaintiffs (10 couples and one child) alleging that Pennsylvania’s state Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and argues that the law substantially effects the fundamental right to marry and discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation. Originally set to be heard in June, we could have a ruling from U.S. District Judge John E. Jones of the Middle District of Pennsylvania as early as today.
Kim Stephan and Kate Peck spent a recent evening in the living room of their cozy home in Philadelphia reminiscing about the night they got engaged. Peck was a smooth operator: She invited Stephan to what she claimed was an exclusive Moby concert at a local concert hall, but there was no concert. Stephan was confused, at first, when she walked into the dark empty room. But then a spotlight clicked on, illuminating Peck, standing on stage dressed in a suit, a bucket of ice chilling a bottle of champagne at her feet. Peck didn’t even have to ask the question. Stephan said yes.
Regardless of the year, June 26 is a date that LGBT Americans will never forget. On that day in 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States found Texas’ anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas and, 10 years later, the top court gave us another huge victory when it ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it violated our Fifth-Amendment rights.
It was a palpable moment where our government validated and deemed equal the love shared between two people in the LGBT community. But the tears of joy have long since dried, the rainbow flags have been folded and put away and here we are in Pennsylvania still waiting for our state to acknowledge us. I don’t know about you, but as state after state (TEXAS?!) begins to stand on the right side of history, my patience for Pennsylvania is wearing thin. Yet, as we look back 50 years ago to the not-too-distant past, the timeline for same-sex marriage is shockingly on par with that of the anti-miscegenation laws overturned to fully legalize interracial marriage.
Remember the good old days of marriage when all you had to worry about choosing was a centerpiece and whether or not to invite that annoying second cousin on your mother’s side of the family? These days, as the battle for national recognition of same-sex marriage rages on, choosing what state you get married in is more important than ever—and not just the venue.
What very few heterosexual people know and, shockingly, very few gay people realize, is that while 18 states will now grant and recognize same-sex marriages, they almost all have residency requirements, often for up to a year, in order to file for a divorce—essentially leaving a couple “wedlocked.” Your state of celebration and state of residence might not see eye to eye on the issue of same-sex marriage and, while the federal government will now recognize your nuptials after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional because it violated Fifth Amendment rights in United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), you could find yourself wedlocked if you do not choose wisely.
Will 2014 be the year when opponents of progress will finally stand alone on the wrong side of history? The forecast looks cloudy, at best. But as I look back at 2013—the battles we’ve won and the battles we’ve lost—I see tremendous potential for advances in LGBT equality in the New Year.
It is always difficult to quantify progress in struggles for increased basic human rights. Looking at 2013 cumulatively, though, there is no doubt that the United States is picking up momentum and moving toward LGBT equality faster than ever.