Suit for Pa. gay marriage to be filed

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.

A federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage will be filed Tuesday by 11 gay couples and others who say their rights and dignity have been trampled.

The suit comes 13 days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and as national polls show that record numbers of Americans support gay unions.

“Our lives are the same as other people’s lives, and we certainly deserve the same rights and benefits,” said plaintiff Maureen Hennessey, who legally married another Philadelphia woman in Massachusetts. When her spouse died, Hennessey said, she suffered financial penalties not imposed on heterosexual widows.

The plaintiffs in the suit, to be filed in Harrisburg, are couples in committed relationships who want to marry but cannot, or who wed in states that permit same-sex marriage but find their unions are not recognized here. Two plaintiffs are teenage children who say they have been stigmatized by the state’s failure to recognize their parents’ union.

“We are seeking the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples,” said Molly Tack-Hooper, an attorney for the plaintiffs with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. “Pennsylvania is a state in which the public is ready to embrace full equality for lesbian and gay couples, even though the legislature does not reflect the public’s views.”

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to wed. New Jersey does not. Pennsylvania legislators passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 to ban same-sex marriages and specify that gay marriages from other states are not valid here.

Republican Gov. Corbett opposes gay marriage, and in recent years Republicans have led efforts to ban the practice by amending the state constitution. Many religious and conservative groups condemn same-sex unions.

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