State responds to same-sex lawsuit

Posted: October 09, 2013

Attorneys for Gov. Corbett responded to a same-sex marriage lawsuit Monday by arguing that men and women "are treated identically" under the state's Marriage Law.

Nicola and Tamara Cucinotta filed suit on Sept. 6, arguing that "they have the right to be married to one another" and that the only impediment to such a union is that they are both women.

The state says the plaintiffs' basic four-page complaint presents no facts to back up their claims of discrimination.

"The Marriage Law treats men and women equally, allowing both a man and a woman to enter into the contract of marriage with someone of the opposite sex," wrote William Lamb, a West Chester lawyer hired by the Corbett administration to handle the spate of same-sex marriage lawsuits.

The state further argued that the Cucinottas failed to "demonstrate that the Marriage Law in any way denies them the inherent right of pursuing their own happiness."

Pennsylvania law defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The Cucinottas were among more than 100 same-sex couples who received marriage licenses in Montgomery County before a Commonwealth Court judge halted the practice in September.

The judge in that case did not address the status of the marriages already performed in the state, leaving couples in limbo for things such as federal tax filings and spousal health benefits.

The IRS announced last month that it would recognize couples who wed in states where gay marriage is legal. As of now, Pennsylvania does not appear to be one of those states.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.) on Monday called on the IRS to clarify its stance for Pennsylvania couples.

The state also argued that the Cucinottas' lawsuit should be thrown out because it was filed only against the commonwealth, a sovereign entity that it says cannot be sued.

A lawsuit similar to the Cucinottas' filed on Sept. 25 in Commonwealth Court named Corbett and other state officials as defendants and outlines specific harms alleged by the defendants.

That case, Ballen v. Corbett, argues that "if plaintiff Sasha Ballen were a man, this fictional man could marry Diana Spagnuolo; however, plaintiff Ballen is a women, so she is not entitled to do so by sole virtue of her sex."

A Corbett spokesman would not comment on the lawsuits and said Monday's legal filing could speak for itself.

Other challenges are pending in federal court.



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