The Pitt News

Summer Guide: The summer of love in PA: Let it spread

By Danielle Dyal / For The Pitt News

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The court ruling in Harrisburg on May 20, which struck down the law barring same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, marked this summer as the summer of undiscriminated love in Pennsylvania.

Federal Judge John E. Jones declared Pennsylvania’s former same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The exact ruling bans Pennsylvania authorities from withholding marriage licenses from same-sex couples.

Jones wrote on the effects in his ruling: “Same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.” 

Jones overturned Pennsylvania’s “Defense of Marriage Act.” DOMA prevents the recognition of same-sex marriages by the federal government and defines marriage as “the legal union between one man and one woman.” Apart from recognition, the act also denies same-sex couples the tax and Social Security benefits received by people in heterosexual marriages. Congress passed DOMA — which should have been titled “Defense of Inequality Act” — in 1996 and it was signed by President Bill Clinton.

Eighteen years later, Pennsylvania joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia to rightfully and officially reject DOMA.

Though commendation for the legislatures of these 19 states is warranted, it is more important that we continue to place pressure on the 31 states where gay marriage is still not permitted by law.

In several of these states, such as Oklahoma, Virginia and Michigan, federal judges have declared the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, but they did not pursue prosecution of the ban, leaving actions toward the ban’s revocation suspended and the bans against same-sex marriages in these states intact.

This still has consequences for same-sex couples living elsewhere — Section 2 of DOMA details that participants in a legal same-sex marriage in a state where the act has been overturned will not have their marriage recognized in a state where DOMA is still considered valid. 

But hope is swelling with headlines often announcing that another state has legalized same-sex marriage. The upswing for the equality movement is linked to the Supreme Court case of Windsor v. United States on June 26, 2013, where the verdict declared DOMA unconstitutional.

The defendant was Edie Windsor, who sued the federal government for its denial of her marriage to Thea Spyer. Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and Windsor, her partner of 44 years and wife of two years, supported Spyer through her battle until her death in 2009. 

Spyer left her property to Windsor but the refusal of the federal government to acknowledge same-sex marriage would have forced Windsor to pay more than $360,000 in estate taxes — a price she would not have owed if her marriage had been recognized.

It has been a year since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Windsor and, this summer, its impact finally hit Pennsylvania. Support for same-sex couples is manifested in the term pride and it has never seemed so fitting.

We should be proud — proud of our state and the 18 others that have realized civil unions are not enough, proud of the same-sex couples who refuse to stop fighting for their right to be in love and proud of this country for getting its act together in the name of equality.

It has been said before and will be said until equal rights are finally guaranteed around the world — the fight for marriage equality is reminiscent of the 1950s when separate but equal was supposed to be enough. Sexuality and race are not the same, but the word equality does not waver in definition. Each and every individual in all 50 states deserves equality. 

Love is in the air in Pennsylvania this summer — here’s to love being in the air regardless of state boundaries before the next.

Write to Danielle at dnd20@pitt.edu

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Summer Guide: The summer of love in PA: Let it spread