Same-sex marriage is now legal in Pennsylvania. In Whitewood, et al. v. Wolf, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Judge John E. Jones, III) discarded Pennsylvania’s law defining marriage as “between one woman and one man” to “the ash heap of history.” Judge Jones determined that the law violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Judge Jones’ decision not only invalidated Pennsylvania’s law prohibiting same-sex couples from legally marrying, but also required that Pennsylvania legally recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other states. I will not dwell on the legal technicalities of “rational basis” versus “heightened scrutiny” review set forth in the opinion. I want to address the practical consequences of this decision.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in Pennsylvania. The practical consequence to me is that I need to revamp my website to take out all those cautions about same-sex couples not having the legal protections afforded to married couples – BUT only if they are legally married. Married couples, regardless of gender, are now treated equally. Unmarried couples, regardless of gender, still do not have the legal protections afforded to married couples. That means unmarried couples must still take additional steps to secure their financial and personal relationships.
The practical consequence to same-sex couples who want to be married is that their marriages are now legally recognized in Pennsylvania. So same-sex couples who actually get married don’t need to bend over backwards trying to make their legal relationship the same as those of other married couples anymore. The big question for same-sex couples who now wish to get married in Pennsylvania is whether they need a prenuptial agreement and how they’re going to arrange their financial life.