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Federal judge's ruling opens door to marriage equality in Pennsylvania

Federal judge's ruling opens door to marriage equality in PA
Federal judge's ruling opens door to marriage equality in PA
Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images

As it was reported by the Associated Press through MSN News, U.S. District Judge John Jones ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a landmark case that challenged Pennsylvania's Domestic Relations Code which limits marriage to only members of the opposite sex. According to Jones, he determined that Commonwealth's marriage laws are unconstitutional and "that when confronted with these inequalities.... that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage." In his landmark opinion that was issued today, May 20, Jones insisted that the 1996 law that banned same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania is antiquated and that public opinion in 2014 is not inline with the one that belongs in history books. Jones related the ban on same-sex marriage to the separate but equal terminology used for many years to segregate the races. Just as public schools were once segregated until Brown v. Board of Education opened the doors for youth of all races to attend school together, Jones expects that in the not so distant future that "the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage."

Since there was no stay issued by the court, same-sex couples wishing to get married are now permitted to apply for marriage licenses throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Legal scholars praised Jones for ruling in favor of civil rights issues and not sticking with an outdated law just because it makes some citizens feel more comfortable. Unless the State appeals Whitewood, et al. v. Wolf to the U.S. Court of Appeals, the ruling will stand and the 11 couples that challenged the law will be able to legally marry in Pennsylvania. For example, in Philadelphia the fee is only $80.00 to apply for a marriage license and it is valid for 60 days after being issued. According to The New York Times, a few hundred people stood outside city hall in Philadelphia cheering what they see not just as a civil rights victory but victory for human rights for all. Predicting that Jones' ruling will send same-sex couples out in droves to apply for marriage licenses, the Office of the Register of the Wills will remain open three hours longer tomorrow than their usual close of business to accommodate applicants seeking to obtain a license.

Considering Governor Corbett's office defended the Defense of Marriage laws in Pennsylvania that restricted marriage to only men and women applicants, it is likely that Jones' ruling will be challenged at the Court of Appeals and could even rise up as far as the supreme court. If not, Pennsylvania is on its way to becoming the 19th state to permit same-sex marriage as Oregon recently made the list at number 18. What is most interesting throughout the news reports is not so much the celebratory news for civil rights advocates but two words that continue to be used with little to no regard for individuals who seek to have their rights restored. The news and other media continue to use the term gay marriage in their headlines often in the same sentence as they use the term civil rights. Interestingly, Jones was explicit is using the word marriage for all. There is no such thing as gay marriage any more than there is gay parenting or anything else that people do. The entire point of the lawsuit was to fight for marriage equality which boils down to the simple fact that people should be allowed to have the freedom to marry the person they love no matter if that person is the same sex as them or the opposite sex. Jones is correct in saying that as a society that we have come a long way since a ban against same-sex marriage was put into place in 1996, but there is also much room to grow and evolve so that one day there is just parenting and marriage without the gay before it. After all, there is no difference to the people seeking to marry and tossing the word gay in front of anything just furthers the great divide not bringing us any closer to being equal.