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Twenty-one same-sex couples file suit to overturn Pa. ban on gay marriage

Twenty-one same-sex couples file suit to overturn Pa. ban on gay marriage

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Twenty-one same-sex couples filed suit Wednesday seeking to overturn the state’s gay-marriage ban on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional.

The state Commonwealth Court lawsuit parallels a separate challenge to the law filed two months ago in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

PennsylvaniaAll of the plaintiff couples in the state action were married with licenses from a Montgomery County court clerk who began issuing them after Democratic state Attorney General Kathleen Kane concluded the law was unconstitutional and refused to defend it in federal court.

Both of the challenges argue that the law, which defines marriage as the union of “one man and one woman,” violates the U.S. Constitution, but Wednesday’s filing claims that it also violates the state constitution.

In another case, a Commonwealth Court judge earlier this month ordered the clerk, D. Bruce Hanes, to stop issuing the licenses because he has no power to decide whether or not the law is constitutional. The county vowed to appeal the ruling.

The state lawsuit also asks the court to affirm the legality of the plaintiffs’ marriages.

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“To lift the cloud over their unions, plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that their marriages are valid under Pennsylvania law,” the lawsuit says.

The challenges followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The state lawsuit named Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, Kane and state Health Secretary Michael Wolf as defendants. Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the governor’s Office of General Counsel, said it had not received a copy of the suit and declined to comment.

The general counsel’s office has hired West Chester lawyer William Lamb, a former state Supreme Court justice, to serve as lead counsel in the federal case.

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