PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A Federal judge has ruled that Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
Judge John Jones released his opinion a short time ago saying "Pennsylvania's marriage laws violate both the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment to the United States constitution."
In his decision Jones wrote, "same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized in the Commonwealth."
The suit, Whitewood v. Wolf, was filed last July in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says same-sex couples who wish to marry may get marriage licenses beginning Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. at the City-County building.
Couples may also apply for marriage licenses online here.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 21-couples who want to marry in Pennsylvania, or want the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages.
The lawsuit alleges that Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act and refusal to marry lesbian and gay couples or recognize their out-of-state marriages violates the fundamental right to marry as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the Supreme Court's "Windsor" decision last year. The landmark ruling struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Judge Jones wrote, "in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage. We are better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history."
The ACLU is planning events Tuesday evening in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, and Harrisburg.
Chris Bryan with the Delta foundation spoke with NewsRadio 1020 KDKA after the ruling. She has always supported the rights of the LGBT community and organizes the Pride Week events every year. This year she has something new to celebrate.
"Cheering, great news, crying," she said. "You know this is a big day for the LGBT community here in Pennsylvania and we were the only state in the north east that didn't believe in marriage equality and it's an exciting day because today we are the 19th."
Bryan told KDKA that the ruling didn't really shock her because there hasn't been a judge that has ruled against the US constitution. They knew the ruling was coming for weeks, but were not sure as to exactly when it would be handed down, but they have a celebration rally planned for downtown tonight.
This ruling is very important to the LGBT community and takes their civil union to a new level. Bryan was able to shed some light on the importance to people who may have lost some sight of what "marriage" means.
"The definition of a marriage by the Federal Government, not by a religious institution, by the Federal Government brings with it certain rights that people who, that everybody should be able to take advantage of," Bryan said. "Whether that be tax benefits, whether it's estate planning, whether its marriage, there's like over 1,200 different benefits you get by being married in the eyes of the Federal Government."
Now the governor can still appeal today's ruling and it could be tied up in court but today is still a big day for the LGBT community. NewsRadio 1020 KDKA's Bill Rehkopf asked Bryan if she felt they won a war or just a battle today.
"Oh I think we've won a war. This was a huge decision," Bryan said.
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