PHILADELPHIA, May 20, 2014 – A federal court today issued a definitive ruling that upholds marriage equality in Pennsylvania, ushering in a critical step for full equality for all residents.
In Whitewood v. Wolf, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III stated “. . . 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.”
The case centered on same-sex couples who either wanted their out-of-state marriages to be recognized in Pennsylvania or wanted to marry in Pennsylvania. PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau offered the following comments on today’s ruling:
“This is an historic day for everyone across Pennsylvania and – and for this city in particular. Since 1951, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations has been charged with enforcing civil rights and upholding equality under the law for every Philadelphian. It’s incredible to know we can add to our national – and international – reputation for being a welcoming place to live, work, play and raise a family for all.
“As the birthplace of American democracy, it’s essential that we live up to the standards of liberty, freedom and equality.”
Some 18 states and the District of Columbia grant full marriage equality rights to all citizens, with Pennsylvania having been the lone state in the Northeast that had not.
The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations enforces the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which protects residents and visitors from discriminatory practices in employment, housing and public accommodations. LGBT populations are among those who often file cases investigated by PCHR.
Since 1998, PCHR also has administered the city’s life partnership program, geared toward same-sex couples wishing to demonstrate their commitment to each other for purposes of securing some of the legal and financial protections married couples enjoy.
The program has stood as a stop-gap measure in lieu of full marriage equality. To date, nearly 900 couples have registered with PCHR. The future of that program in light of today’s ruling is now under review. As of Tuesday, the office of the Register of Wills began processing applications for marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Landau and her partner, Kerry Smith, were the first same-sex couple to receive a license.