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Pennsylvania Marriage Dispute Heats Up

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By Matt Baume

Another huge week for equality, with marriages starting in Minnesota and Rhode Island. There’s a major new lawsuit in Virginia, and legal tussling in Pennsylvania, where the Governor and Attorney General are at at odds. We’ll explain the dispute — plus updates from Michigan, Oklahoma, and Illinois.

As of August First, Minnesota and Rhode Island have joined 11 other states, as well as Washington DC and five Native American tribes, in providing marriage equality. This solidifies the large block of equality states that comprises New England, as well as a growing cluster of states in the midwest.

Attention now turns to nearby states, including Illinois, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Lambda Legal and the ACLU have filed a huge new federal lawsuit in Virginia, where marriage equality is banned both by statute and the state Constitution. That lawsuit echoes AFER’s arguments against Prop 8. Among those arguments: that marriage bans single out gay and lesbian couples for no reason, and that they demean gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens.

And to the north in Pennsylvania, tensions are rising as Montgomery County continues to issue marriage licenses. County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes has deemed the state’s ban on marriage equality to be unconstitutional. And state Attorney General Kathleen Kane agrees, saying that she would not defend the law in court. But Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is stepping in to defend the ban. His representatives lashed out at the AG for, as they put it, causing problems.

Meanwhile, a marriage lawsuit in Michigan is still far from over, but some officials are already laying plans for marriage equality. Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown has been working on an update to marriage licenses that would make them gender-neutral. A Detroit couple challenged Michigan’s marriage ban in state court, and a ruling could come as early as October.

The Illinois state legislature is rapidly approaching the fall veto session. Organizers there have released a plan for securing the votes necessary to pass a marriage bill. It’s not going to be easy: the Illinois Unites for Marriage Coalition needs to raise about two million dollars to fund phone calls, lobbying, and field organizers before the session starts in October. Visit IllinoisUnites.com to learn more and get involved.

And a federal lawsuit in Oklahoma is moving forward. Like the Virginia suit and AFER’s Prop 8 suit, this one claims that Oklahoma’s marriage ban violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the US Constitution. We’ll have more filings due in that case later this month.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on all those states and posting updates whenever there’s new information or ways to help. So remember to subscribe here on YouTube and at AFER.org.

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