Corbett, other Pa. officials seek release from gay-marriage lawsuit
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania's governor, its chief legal officer and its health secretary are asking to be released as defendants in a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the state's gay-marriage ban.
In papers filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Gov. Tom Corbett's legal team argued that the U.S. Constitution provides state officials immunity from being sued in federal court without their consent. The governor's lawyers contend that Corbett and Health Secretary Michael Wolf should be dismissed as defendants because of a 1972 Supreme Court ruling that says federal courts lack jurisdiction over state marriage laws.
In a separate filing, lawyers for state Attorney General Kathleen Kane argued that she should not be a defendant because she is not enforcing the law.
In addition to Corbett, Kane and Wolf, two county officials are named in the lawsuit.
Lawyers in the case are scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Judge John E. Jones III to discuss scheduling matters, including the timing of a trial.
Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is helping represent the plaintiffs, said on Tuesday the latest defense motions amount to “nibbling around the edges” of issues crucial to gay couples in the state.
“We expect that the issue of whether our clients' love and commitment deserves equal respect under the law will get to trial,” he said.
The federal lawsuit, filed in July on behalf of 23 men, women and children seeking to overturn the law, was the first in a growing number of legal challenges. At issue is a 1996 amendment to Pennsylvania's marriage law that defines marriage as a civil contract between “one man and one woman.”
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia, representing about 30 percent of the population, have legalized gay marriages. Every other state in the Northeast allows same-sex marriage except New Jersey, which allows civil unions.
Kane, a Democrat who took office in January, has said she believes the gay-marriage ban violates the state and federal constitutions, and she refused to defend it in court. Lawyers in the Attorney General's Office are representing Kane in the federal case.
The Republican governor's Office of General Counsel has hired a private legal team, headed by former state Supreme Court Justice William Lamb, who is being paid $400 an hour for his services.
The federal case is separate from a proceeding in Commonwealth Court in which the Department of Health is trying to stop a court clerk in Montgomery County from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Corbett has been criticized in recent days for comparing gay marriage to marriage between siblings.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf: ‘Theatrics’ holding up budget
- Philly traffic stop turns violent; trooper shot in shoulder
- Amish man runs Harrisburg marathon in his traditional clothing
- Pennsylvania Senate defeats tax overhaul plan
- Bucks County tells state: No budget, no tax payments
- Penn State pledges tuition freeze in exchange for greater state subsidy
- Elder care facilities evoke times gone by in quest to fight dementia
- Penn State trustees get access to abuse scandal report files