PHILADELPHIA – Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage was overturned by a federal judge Tuesday in a decision that legalized the practice throughout the Northeast and sent couples racing to pick up licenses.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III called the plaintiffs – a widow, 11 couples and one couple’s teenage daughters – courageous for challenging the constitutionality of the ban passed by lawmakers in 1996.
We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history, the judge wrote.
The judge declined to put his ruling on hold for a possible appeal by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, so it went into immediate effect. His state party chairman complained that an activist judge had usurped the power of the legislature.
Corbett’s office was left to defend the law after Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to do so.
State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. If Tuesday’s decision stands, Pennsylvania would become the 19th state to legalize gay marriage, according to the advocacy group Freedom to Marry.
Oregon became the 18th state to recognize same-sex marriage Monday, when couples began applying for marriage licenses immediately after a federal judge invalidated its voter-approved ban.