Progress in Pennsylvania
by Jen Colletta
Dec 26, 2013 | 619 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While 2013 will go down in LGBT history as the year the federal Defense of Marriage Act largely met its downfall, marriage-equality history was also made at the state level in Pennsylvania. For the first time, a challenge was filed to the state’s 1996 law banning same-sex marriage. And then another. And another. And some more. Here is a rundown on the legal challenges filed this year to Pennsylvania’s law prohibiting marriage equality.

Whitewood v. Wolf Filed: July 9

Court: U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Claims: State ban violates federal due-process and equal-protection rights

Background: Ten same-sex couples, two children and one widow sued for the right to marry in the first-ever lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Defendants: Gov. Tom Corbett, Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Health Secretary Michael Wolf, Washington and Bucks counties’ register of wills


• Kane and Corbett are removed as defendants in early November; Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser is brought on as defendant and another couple added as plaintiffs.

• Judge John Jones rejects the state request for a dismissal Nov. 15, finding the “sea change” in marriage laws merits a trial.

• Trial set for June.

Department of Health v. D. Bruce Hanes Filed: July 30

Court: Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

Claims: State official was acting outside his authority by issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Background: Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples July 24, prompting a state suit July 30.

Defendant: Hanes


• Judge Dan Pellegrini hears oral arguments Sept. 4.

• Pellegrini issues a writ of mandamus to compel Hanes to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples Sept. 12.

• From July 24-Sept. 12, Hanes issued 174 licenses to same-sex couples.

• Hanes appeals Pellegrini’s order to the state Supreme Court Sept. 20.

• On Dec. 2, Hanes files a brief arguing the Department of Health lacks standing and the case should have been handled in the Supreme Court, while 23 same-sex couples who received licenses from him file an amicus curiae brief supporting his claims.

Cucinotta v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Filed: Sept. 6

Court: Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

Claims: State ban violates state constitutional right of sovereign immunity

Background: Paoli residents Nicola and Tamara Cucinotta, who obtained a marriage license in Montgomery County, sued for state recognition of their marriage.

Defendants: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania


• State asks for dismissal Oct. 7.

• Plaintiffs file a response Oct. 28.

Ballen v. Corbett Filed: Sept. 24

Court: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Claims: State ban violates state and federal equal-protection and due-process rights and the state Equal Rights Amendment on the basis of sex

Background: Twenty-one same-sex couples who received marriage licenses this summer in Montgomery County sued to have their marriages recognized by the state.

Defendants: Corbett, Kane and Wolf


• Corbett, Wolf ask for dismissal Oct. 31.

• Plaintiffs file amended complaint Nov. 8, adding five new plaintiff couples and arguing same-sex couples are “similarly situated” to heterosexual couples.

Palladino v. Corbett Filed: Sept. 26

Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Claims: Section Two of the federal DOMA violates due-process and equal-protection rights by denying marriages performed in other jurisdictions

Background: Philadelphia residents Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker, married in Massachusetts in 2005, sued for their resident state to recognize their legal marriage.

Defendants: Corbett and Kane


• Corbett requests a dismissal Nov. 25.

• Kane asks to be removed from the case Dec. 9.

• All motions set to be filed by Feb. 28.

Baus v. Gibbs Filed: Oct. 25

Court: Orphans Court of Northampton County

Background: Bethlehem resident Barbara Baus sued after being ordered to pay more than $10,000 in inheritance tax on the estate of her late wife, Cathy Burgi-Rios.

Defendants: Easton Register of Wills Gina Gibbs and Pennsylvania Department of Revenue

Claims: State ban violates the state constitution’s uniformity clause, equal-protection and due-process rights, the state Equal Rights Amendment based on sex and the federal equal protection and due-process rights


• Revenue Department files preliminary objects Nov. 22, asking for dismissal of the case.

• Oral arguments set for Jan. 28.

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