James D. Schneller, president of the Philadelphia Metro Task Force, filed a brief Jan. 25 in the Whitewood v. Wolf case, again calling on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to permit him to become an intervener. The case was filed last summer by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a group of same-sex couples, two children and a widow, and was the first to challenge the constitutionality of the state law prohibiting same-sex marriage. The case is set for trial in June.
Gov. Tom Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen Kane were originally named as defendants but were removed in early November, and Health Secretary Michael Wolf remains the only defendant.
Schneller, who has also led unsuccessful efforts to thwart LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances in Conshohocken and Haverford, filed a motion to intervene as a defendant in November on behalf of Pennsylvania citizens.
In his most recent filing, which followed the plaintiffs’ Jan. 8 opposition to his being an intervener, Schneller said the plaintiffs — who argued in part that Schneller’s only interest in the issue was that it “offends him morally and because he sees a threat in the accomplishments and tactics of those he labels ‘homosexual activists’” — “cherry pick[ed]” the reasons he asserted for his involvement.
Schneller argued that citizens’ religious freedom, and rights to free speech, to freedom from government collusion, to freedom from seizure or confiscation of rights and to freedom from arbitrary enforcement “have and remain infringed upon, with the prospect of exponential increase, should the requested nullifying of the marriage act’s definition of marriage and forbiddance of recognizing out-of-state ‘gay marriage’ be granted.”
Schneller also filed a brief Jan. 17 to be included as an intervener in the Palladino v. Corbett case, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in September. The case, filed by Philadelphia residents Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker who were married legally in Massachusetts, claims that section two of the federal Defense of Marriage Act violates equal-protection rights by denying valid same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
Schneller cited his lengthy litigious history challenging municipal LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances for his ability to enhance the “factual basis” of the issues.
Schneller said his was an “emergency” motion to intervene, following the plaintiffs’ recent request for summary judgment. He also argued that recent court rulings have favored marriage-equality proponents.
“Recent decisions indicate a trend to omit or un-prioritize health-, moral- and traditional family-related considerations in proceedings of this nature,” Schneller wrote.
Schneller said in the Palladino filing that he has also filed motions to intervene in the Commonwealth Court case where several-dozen same-sex couples are suing for recognition of marriage licenses issued to them in Montgomery County last summer, as well as in the case of a Bethlehem woman who is challenging the state law in county court after being forced to pay inheritance tax on the estate of her late wife. A hearing had been scheduled for this week in that case, but was delayed until March.