Marriage Litigation

Whitewood v. Wolf

On July 9, 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller filed a federal lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania on behalf of 23 Pennsylvania residents seeking the freedom to marry in the state or recognition of their out-of-state marriages.

Two days later, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, announced that she will not defend Pennsylvania’s state statute banning the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, explaining, “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA. I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional.”

The state moved to dismiss the case, but in November, U.S. District Judge John Jones III denied the request. The judge scheduled the trial to begin on June 9, 2014 in Harrisburg.

Palladino v. Corbett

On August 28, 2013, private lawyers, sponsored by the Equality Forum, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a same-sex couple married in Massachusetts who sought to have their out-of-state marriage respected by their home state.

]The plaintiffs, Isabelle Barker and Cara Palladino, married in Massachusetts in 2005 after being together as a couple since 1998. Shortly after marrying, they relocated to Pennsylvania. Both women now work at Bryn Mawr College and are raising their four-year-old son in the Philadelphia area.

On January 14, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment in the case.

Oral arguments in the case will be held on May 28, 2014.

Pennsylvania Health Dept. v. Hanes

In July 2013, the Pennsylvania Health Department filed a lawsuit in state court against Montgomery County Clerk Bruce Hanes, who decided that month to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the county. In a few weeks’ time, he had issued over 160 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the Health Department sued in order to force him to comply with Pennsylvania law, which restricts marriage to different-sex couples.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania heard oral arguments on September 4, 2013. On September 13, the trial court ruled that Hanes did not have authority to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of the law in Pennsylvania that restricts marriage to different-sex couples.

On December 3, 2013, lawyers for Bruce Hanes filed a brief in the appeal of the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The brief argues that the court order to stop issuing marriage licenses forced him to violate his oath of office by complying with a law he thinks is unconstitutional.

On January 16, 2014, Governor Corbett and PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane were dismissed as defendants and replaced by the PA Health Secretary.

Ballen v. Corbett

On September 25, 2013, private lawyers filed a state lawsuit on behalf of twenty-one same-sex couples who were issued marriage licenses by Montgomery County Clerk Bruce Hanes in the summer of 2013. The couples filed the petition to have their marriages respected as legal and valid. These same couples were previously denied a request to intervene in Pennsylvania Health Dept. v. Hanes.

In re Estate of Burgi-Rios

On October 25, 2013, private lawyers filed a petition in the court of common pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania on behalf of Barbara Alma Baus, who was forced to pay a 15 percent estate tax on items she owned jointly with her spouse, who passed away in September 2012, even though different-sex couples pay no tax on property inherited from their spouses. The lawsuit seeks equal treatment under Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax laws and challenges the state’s marriage laws, which exclude same-sex couples from the spousal exemption.

The plaintiff, Barbara Baus, is mourning the loss of her wife, Catherine Burgi-Rios, who died of leukemia in September 2012. The couple married on April 29, 2011, in Connecticut and had lived together for more than 15 years. They jointly owned their home, cars, and bank accounts.

The petition argues that the PA Department of Revenue’s failure to respect their marriage violates both the Pennsylvania constitution and the United States Constitution’s commitment to equal protection under the law.