Lawyers' panel discusses LGBT issues

On the Equality Forum lawyers' panel : (from left) William McEnroe, Mark Aronchick, Eric Kraeutler, Thomas Ude, and moderator Adam Romero. They discussed same-sex marriage cases in Pennsylvania. AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer
On the Equality Forum lawyers' panel : (from left) William McEnroe, Mark Aronchick, Eric Kraeutler, Thomas Ude, and moderator Adam Romero. They discussed same-sex marriage cases in Pennsylvania. AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer
Posted: May 05, 2014

PHILADELPHIA A panel of lawyers talked about history and hope Saturday at a Center City meeting organized by the Equality Forum to address big issues facing the LGBT community.

There was a sense that the tide is turning as lawyers cited positive momentum since the U.S. Supreme Court last year granted federal benefits to people married in states that have legalized same-sex unions.

"The movement now has shifted to the courtroom," said Malcolm Lazin, founder and executive director of the organization.

Pennsylvania is among 30 states that do not allow same-sex marriage or recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Lazin said there are now legal challenges in all of those states.

The discussion, along with others about religion and aging, were part of Equality Forum's 22d annual global summit.

Adam Romero, who teaches at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, served as moderator of the legal panel. He said there are more than 22,000 same-sex couples in Pennsylvania. About 2.7 percent of people in the state say they are LGBT.

Lawyers described three same-sex marriage cases underway in Pennsylvania.

One is a state case involving people who received marriage licenses in Montgomery County from the register of wills, Bruce Hanes, before he was ordered to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Lawyer William McEnroe said couples who received the licenses want to establish their validity.

Mark Aronchick represents 23 couples who were legally married in other states or want to be married in Pennsylvania. They hope to overturn Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban and they want recognition of marriages performed elsewhere.

Last summer, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said she would not defend the state against that suit because she believed the ban was "wholly unconstitutional."

Aronchick said that Kane filed notice Friday that she will file a brief in support of his side Monday. She was to receive the Equality Forum's Distinguished Equality Award on Saturday night at the advocacy group's International Equality Dinner.

In another federal case, Eric Kraeutler represents a couple who were married in Massachusetts and moved to Pennsylvania for professional reasons. They want their union recognized here. Oral arguments are scheduled in that case May 15.

Kraeutler is arguing that Pennsylvania's laws violate due process and do not give proper credit to the laws of other states.

He said people should not be penalized for traveling between states. Pennsylvania, he said, is saying, "Not only do we not respect your marriage, we void your marriage."


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@StaceyABurling

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