Pennsylvania makes 19! Nineteen states, plus the District of Columbia, where same-sex couples are legally able to wed. Marriages performed outside of those states must be recognized in the Keystone State, too. Rulings in Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky require those states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. That means marriage equality rings in one form or another in 22 states.
U.S. District Judge John Jones’s 39-page decision explained why the 21 same-sex couples who brought suit last year against Pennsylvania’s 18-year-old ban on marriage equality were entitled to protection under the Constitution. In his stirring conclusion in Whitewood et al. v. Wolf, arguments about tradition didn’t sway the 2002 appointee of President George W. Bush.
The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightly discarded doctrine of “separate but equal.” See Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), overruling Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In the sixty years since Brown was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.
We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.
That Jones was recommended for the post by then-Sen. Rick Santorum, the ultra-conservative and anti-gay Republican, is rich with irony. And it will forever live as the one thing — the only thing — Santorum has ever done worthy of praise by gays and lesbians.
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