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Pennsylvania Gay Marriage Ban Overturned By Judge

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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, Jan Carabeo and Diana Rocco

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania couples heard for the first time the news they had long waited to hear: Pennsylvania is now the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

A federal court ruled today that the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

In a 39-page opinion, federal court judge John Jones relied on the US Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, writing that he hopes in future generations the label “same-sex marriage” will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by “marriage.”

Judge Jones wrote, “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.”

Lead attorney Mark Aronchick, with the law firm of Hangley Aronchick, said, “It is in effect right now. Right now, people can get married in Pennsylvania.”

The words brought tears to most in the room.

Plaintiffs Edwin Hill and David Palmer were married in Maine, but their marriage was not recognized in Pennsylvania.

Hill said, “We fell in love immediately 25 years ago.” He added,”We wanted to have our relationship respected. It took a while, but we’re very happy now.”

The decision means same-sex couples, like Palmer and Hill who are married in other states, will have their marriages recognized and couples who want apply for marriage licenses, can apply immediately.

Aronchik said Judge Jones’ ruling will have a huge impact on LGBT civil rights.

“It not only will apply to marriages, but it will also apply to public accommodations and employment.”

Meanwhile, it’s unclear if the state will appeal the decision.

Aronchick said, “And I hope that all the officials in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania realize that the court has spoken. We have to move on.”

Already moving on, Pennsylvania couples who are ready to tie the knot.

At Philadelphia ACLU headquarters champagne was popping.

“We met each other in our mid-twenties. At that time, almost 20 years ago, we never thought marriage was in the cards for us,” said plaintiff Christine Donato.

Donato and her longtime girlfriend Sandy were part of a 25-plaintiff lawsuit against the state.

“We really wanted to do it for each other, for our families, for our son,”plaintiff Sandy Ferlanie said.

“Very disappointed. I think we all want a more loving, considerate society but I don’t think we get there through a one judge court ruling that strikes down something as fundamental as marriage,” Randall Wenger of Pennsylvania Family Institute said.

But in Montgomery County the Register of Wills is barred by order from issuing licenses after he illegally issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples months ago. The status of those now remain in the courts.

“Logically it would make sense that they would also be validated,” Register of Wills Bruce Hanes said.

Hundreds rallied outside Philadelphia’s City Hall where couples were lining up to get their licenses hours after the decision was issued.

“Pennsylvania didn’t recognize our marriage and that changes today,” Shenu Lawrence-Gupta said.

City Hall had extended hours to issues licenses today and will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

This afternoon, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference issued the following statement in part:

“Today’s decision by one federal judge speaks to the confusion and misunderstanding among many today about the fundamental building block of society: the family.  Every child has a basic right to a mother and a father united in marriage as a family. Today’s decision does not change that.”

Governor Corbett has said he will not appeal the ruling.

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