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Battle Over Pa. Gay Marriage Law Is Joined in US Court in Philadelphia

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Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a full house today in federal court in Philadelphia, as lawyers presented the first set of oral arguments in the battle over Pennsylvania’s “Defense of Marriage Act” (“DOMA”), which outlawed gay marriages.

Five cases are currently pending in courts across the state.  Attorneys for Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker attacked the state law on equal-protection and due-process grounds, and on fair-faith-and-credit grounds for its failure to recognize the the marriage of the couple.

Palladino and Barker married Massachusetts in 2005.

“The right of our client to marry has been taken away from them solely because of their sexual orientation,” said attorney Michael Banks of the law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius, “and the question is whether their Constitutional right have been denied for an improper reason.”

Judge Mary McLaughlin peppered the lawyers with questions but focused in on the interpretation of the US Supreme Court’s decision in US v. Windsor and repeatedly asked defense counsel the rationale for Pennsylvania’s DOMA.

Joel Frank, of Lamb McErlane, counsel for the Corbett administration, defended the law, arguing that it’s about separation of powers and states’ rights.

He argued that Pennsylvania had a rational basis for passing the law:

“Promotion of procreation, number one,” he said, “connecting the mother and father that brought the child into the world.”

After the hearing, Palladino and Barker, who have been together for 16 years, said they are confident as momentum builds across the country.

“We’re obviously really hopeful and cautiously optimistic that the State of Pennsylvania will legally recognize our rights,”  said Barker, who has a son with Palladino.

“Our son doesn’t really understand that we are not like any other couple, and I’m hoping the law will change so he doesn’t have to know,” said Palladino.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that bans gay marriage.

There was no immediate word on when the judge will rule in the case.  Both sides have asked for an expedited ruling.

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