On April 3, 2017, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, along with the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) on behalf of Stephanie Stum, whose fiancé, Wayne Black-Rhoden, is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Mercer (SCI-Mercer).

Black-Rhoden immigrated to the United States from Costa Rica as a teenager and has been a legal permanent resident since 2008. However, he is under threat of deportation as a result of his felony conviction. His immigration hearing is scheduled for May 10, but he will not complete the programming necessary to allow him to marry under DOC policy until June.

If he and Stum, who is a U.S citizen, are married, he could petition to have his immigration status adjusted to allow him to stay in the United States.

In 2016, Black-Rhoden pleaded “no contest” to charges of statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors. He has attended all necessary treatment program sessions since his incarceration started and is on schedule to complete the programming as required.

The lawsuit argues that the DOC policy is a violation of Stum’s 14th Amendment right to marry.

On April 24, 2017, a federal district court in Pittsburgh issued an injunction in favor of Stum and ordered the DOC to facilitate the marriage.


U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

Date filed

April 13, 2017


Sara Rose (ACLU of Pennsylvania); Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz (Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project); Stephanie Reiss and John Gisleson (Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP)