U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III called the plaintiffs – a widow, 11 couples and one couple’s teenage daughters – courageously challenge the constitutionality of the ban passed by lawmakers in 1996.
“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” the judge wrote.
The judge withholds to put his ruling on hold, for a possible appeal by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, so it went into immediate effect. The governor, who opposes gay marriage, did not issue a statement or indicate whether he would appeal. However, his state party chairman complained that an “activist” judge had seized the power of the Legislature.
Jubilation across the state can be felt, as the county offices in Philadelphia stayed open late to handle marriage applications, while officials in Pittsburgh were closed for election day, however, accepting them online. Couples must wait three days prior to getting married, unless a supportive judge grants a waiver.
Joe Parisi told his partner to “jet out of work” and get to Philadelphia City Hall.
“We didn’t want to take the chance of having this be challenged and missing out on our opportunity,” said Parisi, a Philadelphia resident who plans to marry Steven Seminelli.
They were among the first to get a license Tuesday afternoon, right after the judge’s ruling.
The judge also ordered Pennsylvania to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU), which pursued the case, said of the ruling: “It’s everything we hoped for.”
State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. If Tuesday’s decision stands, Pennsylvania would become the 19th state to legalize gay marriage, according to the advocacy group Freedom to Marry.
The ACLU’s contentions that the bans deprive same-sex couples and their families of the legal protection, tax benefits and social statuses afforded to married couples.
Corbett’s office was left to defend the law after Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to do so. A spokesman for Corbett’s office said it was reviewing the opinion.
The Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed July 9, was the first known challenge to the state ban. There were five test cases emerged, including one over a suburban county’s decision last year to issue 174 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, before a court shut them down. Officials in Montgomery County were trying Tuesday to have that order lifted.
Oregon became the 18th state to recognize same-sex marriage on Monday, when couples began applying for marriage licenses immediately after a federal judge invalidated its voter-approved ban.
Furthermore, Monday, a federal judge, in Utah, ordered state officials to recognize, around 1,000 gay marriages that took place in the state over a two-week period before the U.S. Supreme Court suspended same-sex weddings with an emergency stay.
And later, Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that no same-sex marriages will be allowed or recognized in Idaho until an appeal to a ruling May 13 overturning that state’s ban is decided.
Jones who's a Republican and an appointee of former President George W. Bush, that previously known to barred in 2005 decision a Pennsylvania school district from teaching intelligent design in biology class, saying it was "a mere re-labeling of creationism."
Democrats and supporters were expressed their happiness, on Tuesday’s results. However, criticism from state Republicans, who recently as 2012 endorsed a platform defining a marriage is between a man and a woman.
“An activist judiciary has substituted its judgment in place of the law created by the elected representatives of Pennsylvania,” Chairman Rob Gleason said, “and has stifled the ongoing debate of people with differing points of view.”