The decision came a day after another U.S. district judge declared
a similar ban on gay marriage unconstitutional in Oregon, the 18th
state to gain legal standing for same-sex nuptials.
"By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in
Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be
recognized as such in the Commonwealth," U.S. District Judge John
Jones III wrote in overturning Pennsylvania's 1996 Defense of
Most recent federal court decisions lifting statewide prohibitions
on gay marriage have come with a stay maintaining the status quo
pending appeal, but Jones's ruling did not.
There is, however, a three-day waiting period for all weddings in
Pennsylvania. The state has 30 days to decide whether to appeal
Jones's ruling, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Later on Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San
Francisco extended its earlier stay of a judge's decision last week
striking down Idaho's gay marriage ban and set an expedited schedule
for an appeal by the state. Oral arguments for that appeal are
planned for early September.
Still, gay rights activists have scored a string of legal victories
on the marriage front in such states as Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and
Texas in a trend that has gained momentum since the Supreme Court
ruled last June that legally married same-sex couples are eligible
for federal benefits.
In his opinion in the Pennsylvania case, Judge Jones noted the issue
of gay marriage "is a divisive one" that makes some people "deeply
"However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not
make its prohibition constitutional," he wrote. "Nor can past
tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process
and equal protection."
He compared Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage with school
segregation laws overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954
landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
[to top of second column]
The legal challenge to Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban was
filed last July by several gay couples.
"This is a momentous day for our clients and all same-sex couples in
Pennsylvania who want to have their love and commitment to each
other recognized in the same way as that of other couples," ACLU
executive director Reggie Shuford said.
The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex
marriage, called the ruling "brazen and unjust" and said voters
should decide the issue.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has previously said she
would not seek to defend the ban in court, prompting calls for
impeachment by conservative legislators.
On Tuesday, Kane tweeted: "Today, in Pennsylvania, the Constitution
prevailed. Inequality in any form is unacceptable and it has never
stood the test of time."
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, G Crosse, Gunna Dickson, Eric Walsh and
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