PHILADELPHIA -- A federal suit was filed today in Philadelphia to declare unconstitutional the Pennsylvania statute that bans recognition of same-sex marriage legally entered into in states that authorize same-sex marriages.
The suit raises important constitutional questions that the courts have not addressed, including the impact of the full faith and credit clause, which requires states to respect judgment, decrees and orders of other states, and the constitutional right to travel between states without penalty or deprivation of legal rights. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex couples to marry.
The focus of the suit is Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act, which singles out same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment by refusing to recognize their marriage licenses that were properly issued in other states. The suit also raises claims under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The suit was brought by Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker, who were married in February 2005 in Massachusetts, where they resided. The couple has been together since 1998. The couple relocated to Pennsylvania in August 2005, when Isabelle Palladino accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Cara and Isabelle desired to have children. Isabelle became pregnant and delivered a son in January 2009.
The complaint names Governor Thomas Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen Kane as the defendants. Pennsylvania is one of 37 states that does not recognize legally sanctioned same-sex marriages. Pennsylvania law states that marriages of same-sex couples from other states are considered “void." There are an estimated 125,000 same-sex married couples in the United States. Like heterosexual married couples, many same-sex families relocate to another state for business, education, family and/or other reasons
The lawsuit is designed to eliminate legally married same-sex couples and their families being demeaned and treated as second class citizens if they move to Pennsylvania, as has happened to Cara, Isabelle and their son.
Equality Forum, which is a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus, is coordinating the suit. “Since the inception of the nation, almost all marriages sanctioned by one state have been accepted by all other states," stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum. “Failure by Pennsylvania to recognize a legal marriage denigrates Cara, Isabelle and their son and denies them important family protections and benefits.”
Michael Banks and Eric Kraeutler, partners, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, are lead counsel. Morgan Lewis & Bockius is a law firm headquartered in Philadelphia with 24 offices worldwide and over 1,600 law professionals. Tiffany Palmer and Benjamin Jerner of Jerner & Palmer, P.C. are co-counsel. Jerner & Palmer, P.C. is a law firm focusing on LGBT family law and estate planning in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.