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Politics & Government

Plaintiffs Want Judge To Strike Down PA Marriage Law Without A Trial

Plaintiffs challenging the Pennsylvania law that bans same-sex marriage say there’s no need for a June trial and want a federal court judge to issue an immediate decision.

Vic Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs in January filed a list of experts with the court but the commonwealth indicated it would not provide witnesses to refute the plaintiffs’ witnesses.

“As we went through the discovery process it became clear the commonwealth really wasn’t disputing the harm that our clients claimed to have suffered by this law, and that their argument really is that the legislature had a rational basis for treating same-sex couples differently," Walczak said.

The ACLU represents a widow, 11 couples and a teenage daughter of one of the couples.

Papers were filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg seeking a summary judgment. Walczak the plaintiffs are asking federal court to declare as unconstitutional the Pennsylvania law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and allow same-sex couples to wed in Pennsylvania and require the state to recognize marriages of same sex couples performed in other states.

“We have told the stories of all of our plaintiff families in very moving declarations,” Walczak said. “We have all of our expert witnesses’ testimony going in. We think that the stories are tremendously profound and our couples are just as devoted to each other as any other couple that’s able to get married in Pennsylvania.”

According to Walczak, if the state isn’t going to present experts to refute the plaintiffs’ witnesses, then it doesn’t make sense to have a trial. 

“Trials — they are just to resolve disputes of fact and if we don’t have a dispute of fact, the judge just may as well decide it on the papers (written arguments and depositions) and that may advance the process by several weeks,” Walczak said.

The plaintiffs say the current law prevents them from getting the same legal protections and tax benefits provided to married couples.

Walczak said the state could call the original sponsors of the Pennsylvania’s marriage law to testify about the legislation.  

“It really is fairly ugly," he said. "The law was passed 18 years ago, and so when you look at it by today’s standards, it really is a little bit shocking to see the kinds of things that the legislators were saying about these loving, committed couples.”

Walczak said a decision could come anytime after mid-May — the deadline for filing all papers in the case. 

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