Pennsylvania Gay Marriage Ban Faces ACLU Challenge

07/09/2013 09:20 am ET | Updated Jul 09, 2013

Two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that a federal ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union is bringing that decision to the state level.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the group is filing a lawsuit against Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban. The move will also aim to keep state officials from mounting further challenges against same-sex couples seeking to marry.

According to the Washington Post, 23 plaintiffs will be part of this lawsuit, including 10 gay couples, two children of another couple and the widow of a same-sex couple that was together for 29 years. Susan Whitewood, one of the plantiffs, told the AP that her primary reason for joining the lawsuit was not "legal validation."

"I wanted our relationship to be respected like everybody else's relationship," Whitewood said. "That was first and foremost the reason for doing this."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette adds that Pennsylvania's Defense Of Marriage Act defines marriage as between a man and woman, while also prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex marriages held in other parts of the country.

"What we're looking for is for the court to say: Here we are in the 21st century, and you cannot prohibit somebody from participating in this wonderful institution we call marriage," Witold "Vic" Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU, told the Post-Gazette.

According to Washington Post data released on DOMA ruling day, same-sex marriage is legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Pennsylvania is one of 35 states to hold a ban by either state law or constitutional amendment. New Jersey and New Mexico stand as the only states with no law on the books for or against same-sex marriage, according to CNN data.

UPDATE (1:35 p.m. ET): The ACLU also moved Tuesday to challenge North Carolina's same-sex marriage ban. This instance involved a request to state Attorney General Roy Cooper, seeking an additional claim on Fisher-Borne v. Smith. That case challenges North Carolina's ban on second parent adoption -- a situation where one partner in an unmarried couple, gay or straight, looks to adopt the other person's child.

The AP added that an ACLU challenge in Virginia is also in the works. This case involves a constitutional amendment and trio of statutes banning gay marriage and prohibiting recognition of gay marriages from other states. ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga said Tuesday that lawyers will claim these laws violate equal protection.

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