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Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Gay Marriage Ban

The nationwide wave of judicial decisions striking down state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage continued on Tuesday as a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

In the 14th consecutive victory for marriage equality, US District Judge John E. Jones III, who was appointed by George W. Bush, overturned Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban.

“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” wrote Jones in his ruling.

“By virtue of this 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 wrote.

“We now join the 12 federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage,” he added.

Every state in the Northeast has now achieved LGBT marriage equality.

Same-sex couples rushed to obtain marriage licenses in the wake of the historic decision.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” 42-year-old attorney Kerry E. Smith told the Philadelphia Inquirer after she and her partner, Ruthellen Landau, received their marriage license at Philadelphia City Hall.

“This is fantastic for everybody who wants to get married in Philadelphia and it paves the way for more equality throughout the state and the country,” added Landau, 45.

Landau added that she had received a call from a representative of Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, who said he wants to officiate their wedding next Tuesday.

“Congrats to all of the activists in the LGBT community and the supporters – marriage equality for all,” Nutter tweeted shortly after the decision was announced.

Many Philadelphia residents expressed their approval of the ruling.

“I think it’s about time,” 18-year-old St. Joseph’s University freshman Courtney Foster told the Inquirer. “I think marriage should be available to anyone. Their marriage doesn’t harm anyone, just like if I got married it wouldn’t affect them.”

“It’s about time that gay and lesbian people had the same civil rights, with respect to marriage that straight people have,” said 66-year-old semi-retired business owner Robert Braun. “I have been sending congratulations to all of my gay friends.”

But not everyone was celebrating the news that marriage equality had arrived in the Keystone State. Many religious figures and conservatives lamented Jones’ ruling.

“Today’s federal district court decision striking down Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act is a mistake with long-term, negative consequences,” Charles J. Chaput, the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, said in a statement.

“Like many other Pennsylvanians, I hope that an appeal will be made promptly. Laws that defend the traditional definition of marriage were enacted for sound reasons– namely to defend the rights of children and contribute to the well-being of the larger community,” Chaput continued.

“Marriage is more than a private arrangement between two people. It’s a public commitment of love and fidelity, and it’s ordered not just to companionship but to creating and rearing new life. This is why every child deserves a mother and a father in a loving marriage, and the child is the fruit of that love,” he added.

“All men and women are formed in the image of God and deserve our respect. But attempts to redefine the nature of marriage, no matter how well intentioned, damage a cornerstone of our human interaction and ultimately work against human dignity itself,” he said.

Meanwhile, across the country in Oregon, many same-sex couples were busy tying the knot a day after a federal judge there ruled that the state’s voter-approved constitutional amendment banning such unions was unconstitutional. Oregon became the 18th state to achieve LGBT marriage equality.

“No longer will Oregonians tolerate discrimination against the gay, lesbian and transgender community,” declared Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, following the ruling.

Also on Monday, a federal judge ordered Utah to recognize more than 1,000 same-sex marriages that recently took place in the state before the US Supreme Court issued an emergency stay.

It’s been a very good week– indeed, a very good year– for LGBT marriage equality in the United States.

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