Same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania has been legally recognized since a U.S. Federal District Court judge ruled that the 1996 state ban on recognizing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Nearly two years later, the country's highest court handed down a historic ruling that overturned a federal law that denied benefits to married same-sex couples. The crux of the case, which is based on four consolidated cases, revolves around the arguments that homosexual couples have a constitutional right to marry, to have their names legally printed on the death certificate of their same-sex spouse, to be listed as emergency contacts, respectively, and a number of other protections, legal and civil rights that extend to heterosexual married couples without additional legal contracts.
Gay couples living in Ohio, where gay marriage is illegal, and who marry across the border in Pennsylvania are currently not granted recognition of that union in their home state. However, a ruling in favor of the constitutional rights of gay marriage will have a resounding impact even in states that have legalized such unions. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, gay and lesbian couples will have the constitutional right to marry in every state of the union. In recent decades, as the debate on gay marriage in this country reached dizzying levels in the streets, courts and legislatures, public opinion has leaned broadly in favor of gay marriage.
Throughout the 1990s, only about 20 percent of the American population was in favor of same-sex marriage. That figure is now approaching 60 percent. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, public opinion polls show that about 60 percent of the state's residents support equal marriage. While gay rights advocates recognize that significant progress has been made in terms of marriage equality, the law remains biased against gay couples.
Throughout Pennsylvania, which doesn't protect against hate crimes against LGBT people, people who are gay, lesbian or transgender, for example, can still be fired from their jobs for showing pictures of their same-sex spouse on their desk. Advocates of traditional marriage are committed to continuing to fight for what they believe is the constitutionally sanctioned definition of marriage: the union between a man and a woman. Some are calling for a constitutional amendment that protects the traditional meaning of marriage. Michael Geere, president of the Family Institute of Pennsylvania, maintains that the Constitution does not prohibit states from passing laws that define marriage as something between a man and a woman.
Geere said that the court's nine judges, as unelected officials, are making that determination based on what they think about the issue. The general question before the court, Geere said, is not whether a definition of marriage between men and women is the best, but whether the Constitution prohibits states from developing their policies on that definition. Geere predicts that the next phase of court litigation in the gay marriage debate will focus on the rights of Americans who defend the traditional definition of marriage and whose livelihoods are threatened as a result. Florists, catering companies, wedding bakeries and other businesses are in financial ruin, he said, for refusing to serve same-sex couples.
Approximately 21 states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sellers in those states who refuse to provide services to LGBT people could face legal action and fines. Community rules apply to all content that you upload or otherwise submit to this site. It is very likely that all four liberal justices on the court will rule in favor of gay marriage and the decisive vote will fall on Judge Anthony Kennedy, who ruled in favor of the last three historic rulings on gay marriage.