ACLU challenges Pa. ban on same-sex marriage

ASSOCIATED PRESS Susan (second from left) and Deb Whitewood (right), shown with their kids, are the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the first federal case since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Susan (second from left) and Deb Whitewood (right), shown with their kids, are the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the first federal case since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
Posted: July 11, 2013

THE AMERICAN Civil Liberties Union yesterday filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 10 couples and three other people challenging Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, is the first federal case on the issue since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last month, an attorney in the case said.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast without either a freedom-of-marriage right or a civil-union statute, said the lawyer, Mark Aronchick, who called yesterday's announcement "a major moment of history."

One plaintiff, Helena Miller of West Philadelphia, said she felt a range of emotions attending a news conference in Harrisburg at which the lawsuit was announced.

"I felt incredibly honored and proud to be a part of this effort," Miller told the Daily News. "I felt part broken inside, hearing some of the stories of other plaintiffs."

Miller married Dara Raspberry in Connecticut in 2010 and gave birth to a daughter in May. When the couple moved to Philly in 2011, they had to meet with lawyers to "re-create" their marriage protections, such as seeking second-parent rights for their child, she said.

"Moving to Pennsylvania was upsetting because it basically unmarried us," Miller said.

The federal lawsuit, Whitewood v. Corbett, includes 23 plaintiffs who want the freedom to marry and to benefit from the protections that heterosexual married couples enjoy.

Aronchick, whose Center City law firm is assisting the ACLU in the case, said of yesterday's news conference: "I have never had a more thrilling day, never seen a more compelling moment."

As the case makes its way through the courts, the ACLU will continue a "public-education campaign," ACLU lawyer Molly Tack-Hooper said.

"Part of this struggle is letting people know their stories," she said of the plaintiffs and others like them.

Raspberry said that fighting for her rights in Pennsylvania was arduous but that she had energy for the upcoming legal process.

"This is much more significant because it will affect people that don't even know that they want to get married yet," she said.

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