The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union, and volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, and University of Pennsylvania School of Law Professor Seth Kreimer filed a federal lawsuit on July 9, 2013, on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians who wished to marry in Pennsylvania or wanted the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages.

The lawsuit alleged that Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act and refusal to marry lesbian and gay couples or recognize their out-of-state marriages violated the fundamental right to marry as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This lawsuit came in the wake of the ACLU's victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor, which requires federal recognition for lesbian and gay couples who are married in their home states. Plaintiffs argued that the court should closely scrutinize this discriminatory treatment because the state's Defense of Marriage Act burdened the fundamental right to marry and because it discriminated based on sex and sexual orientation.

On April 21, 2014, plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment. Client declarations and an FAQ about the summary judgement can be found below.

​Expert Reports:

(Copies of the reports can be found below)
  • M.V. Lee Badgett, Ph.D., is a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is the Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law. Her testimony concerns the economic impacts on lesbian and gay couples and their families, especially in Pennsylvania, arising from Pennsylvania’s refusal to allow them to marry or to recognize their marriages; and the economic impacts on the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including the government, taxpayers and businesses, arising from Pennsylvania’s refusal to allow or recognize marriages for same-sex couples. 
  • Leonore F. Carpenter is an assistant professor at Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law. Her testimony discusses the lack of legal protections available to lesbian and gay couples and the range of harms to same-sex couples and their families due to their inability to access the legal protections and be subject to the legal obligations of marriage.
  • George Chauncey, Ph.D., is the Samuel Knight Professor History and American Studies at Yale University. His research and scholarly work has concentrated on the history of discrimination by lesbians and gay men in the United States, and his report focuses on this history of discrimination, with attention to Pennsylvania. 
  • Nancy F. Cott, Ph.D., is the Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard University. Her testimony concerns the history of marriage, including the purposes of marriage; the changes in marriage over time that removed inequalities that were once considered essential to marriage, e.g., the doctrine of “coverture” through which wives ceded their legal and economic independence to their husbands upon marrying, and laws restricting interracial marriages; the removal of gender-based distinctions in the roles of husbands and wives; and the many government benefits and other consequences arising from marriage. 
  • Michael Lamb, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Cambridge University in England. His testimony, based on forty years of research in the field of developmental psychology, concerns the factors that predict healthy child adjustment, the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents, and how allowing same-sex couples to marry and have their marriages recognized benefits the children of those couples. 
  • Letitia Anne Peplau, Ph.D., was a professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, for 38 years before retiring in 2011. Her testimony concerns the immutability of sexual orientation; whether being gay or lesbian has a bearing on an individual’s ability to contribute to society; the ability of same-sex couples to form committed, loving relationships just like heterosexual couples; the range of social and other benefits afforded by marriage and, thus, the harm that the exclusion from marriage causes to same-sex couples; the stigmatizing effect of the marriage exclusion; and the absence of any impact on opposite-sex couples’ relationships of allowing marriage for same-sex couples.

On May 20, 2014, a federal judge ruled in our favor, striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

On June 26, 2015, twelve years to the day after the Supreme Court struck down bans on sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas. Two years to the day after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court of the United States held that states may not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples and must recognize same-sex couples' existing marriages.

Press Releases:


Witold Walczak, Mary Catherine Roper & Molly Tack-Hooper (ACLU-PA); James Esseks & Leslie Cooper (ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project); Mark Aronchick, John Stapleton, Dylan Steinberg, & Rebecca Melley (Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schil

Date filed

July 9, 2013


US District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania