Whitewood, et al. v. Wolf, et al.

Lawsuit successfully overturning Pennsylvania's exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.

Court/Assoc.: US District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

Attorneys/Firms: 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 & Schiller); Seth Kreimer (University of Pennsylvania Law School)

Whitewood v. Wolf

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.

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.

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