News

Top stories of 2013: Same sex marriage

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Dec 26, 2013 4:00 AM

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(Harrisburg) -- The fight over gay marriage in Pennsylvania went to the courts this year, and it hasn't been resolved yet.

Same sex couples and their advocates hope to add Pennsylvania to the list of states allowing same sex marriage.

So far, they haven't succeeded.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a group of 23 plaintiffs in July, after the U-S Supreme Court struck down a federal law denying benefits to same sex couples.

Dara Raspberry moved to Philadelphia with her partner Helena Miller and their infant daughter, and says they're part of this fight because the law, as it stands now, is hurting them.

"It is upsetting that we moved to be closer to family, yet our move caused us to suddenly become unmarried, and thus, less of a family in the eyes of our state's laws."

Pennsylvania law currently bars same sex marriage.

Deb Whitewood and her partner Susan are also a part of the lawsuit. 

"Our friends, our family, our church family, the kids and the teachers at my kids school, they all recognize us as a true family. And we feel that it's time that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania did so as well."

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Photo by Mary Wilson/witf

Mark Aronchik is an attorney working on the case challenging the law and says it could be a chance for the Keystone State to move forward.

"We welcome the opportunity to show the nation that the freedom to marry for same-sex couples is nothing to fear and everything to celebrate."

The lawsuit is expected to head to court in June, but accusations have been flying lately - with the plaintiff's lawyers accusing the state's attorneys of asking for extraodinarily personal information.

The state's attorneys fired back – calling the release of correspondence to the media a breach of privacy.

Opponents of same sex marriage say the courts shouldn't decide the topic, arguing it takes the decision out of the hands of the people.

But Deb Whitewood, a plaintiff, says this is an issue that shouldn't be subject to popular opinion.

"Susan and I feel that the government shouldn't be able to tell us who we are and who we are not allowed to marry. After 22 years together, we feel that that's a decision we should be able to make ourselves."

The latest poll on the issue, conducted by Franklin and Marshall College in May, shows a slim majority support gay marriage, but don't identify it as a major issue in the short term.

Advocates point out Pennslyvania is the only state in the Northeast that doesn't allow same sex marriage.

Judges in US District Court in Harrisburg could decide if that fact is true beyond 2014.

Other developments played out across the state: a clerk in Montgomery County issued marriage licenses to same sex couples before a judge stopped him, and the United Methodist church defrocked a Lebanon County pastor for performing his son's same sex wedding in Massachusetts.

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