Same-sex marriage ban to be tested in Pa.

State at­tor­neys are work­ing to de­vel­op a leg­al brief in re­sponse to a fed­er­al law­suit that chal­lenges the com­mon­wealth’s ban on same-sex mar­riage. A re­sponse is due next Monday. 

“Our mis­sion is to present a thor­ough leg­al ar­gu­ment in the hope that a defin­it­ive rul­ing from the court will bring clar­ity to this is­sue,” Pennsylvania Gen­er­al Coun­sel James D. Schultz said. 

The Of­fice of At­tor­ney Gen­er­al typ­ic­ally handles this type of con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenge, but At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Kath­leen Kane an­nounced in Ju­ly 2013 that she would not de­fend the state’s mar­riage laws. 

This case is not to be con­fused with the case in­volving Mont­gomery County Re­gister of Wills D. Bruce Hanes’ de­cision to is­sue mar­riage li­censes to gay couples, which deals mainly with the is­sue of “who de­cides” if laws are to be en­forced. 

In­stead, this case al­leges that the 1996 Pennsylvania law ban­ning gay mar­riage vi­ol­ates the civil rights of gay couples. The case was filed by 10 gay couples in Ju­ly in the U.S. Dis­trict Court in Har­ris­burg.

At­tor­neys from the Of­fice of Gen­er­al Coun­sel, as well as the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Health, are co­ordin­at­ing the de­fense. The Of­fice of Gen­er­al Coun­sel has also hired Chester County law­yer and former Re­pub­lic­an Pennsylvania Su­preme Court Justice Wil­li­am Lamb to rep­res­ent the state.

“The Of­fice of Gen­er­al Coun­sel provides com­pre­hens­ive leg­al ser­vices to nu­mer­ous state agen­cies and ex­ec­ut­ives, but we do not typ­ic­ally de­fend cases that solely chal­lenge the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of a stat­ute,” Schultz said. “Who bet­ter than a former Su­preme Court Justice and his firm to as­sist in ad­dress­ing this type of fun­da­ment­al ques­tion?”

Vic Wal­czak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s leg­al dir­ect­or, is rep­res­ent­ing the plaintiffs. 

A tri­al date has yet to be set. 

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