4 Important Gay Rights Cases You Should Know About

gayest cities in america

A lot’s been happening on the national gay-marriage front this year, and on first appearance it may not all seem completely rosy. First, the Supreme Court granted Utah’s request to temporarily block same-sex marriages after they were legalized there at the end of 2013. Then we got our hopes up about Oklahoma when a judge ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. But she said gay couples there couldn’t marry until a decision was heard in Utah. Not all great news for the least patient among us, but, as SCOTUSblog points out, “The ruling [in Utah] can be interpreted as an indication that the court wants to have further exploration in lower courts of the basic constitutional question of state power to limit marriage to a man and a woman.”

The Week identifies four of the most pivotal cases in those lower courts that we should all keep on our radar, and one of them is Pennsylvania. Here’s what’s said about us:

Pennsylvania is the last state in the Northeast holding out on legalized gay marriage. But there are a whopping seven lawsuits (at least) circulating in the courts. Each challenges various aspects of the 1996 law, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where they are legal. One suit, brought by the ACLU, is scheduled for a hearing in June.

On a political level, these court cases are threatening to make things a tad contentious in the capital. As in Virginia, Pennsylvania’s new Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced just a few weeks after taking office that she will not defend the ban in court. “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA,” she said. “I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional.”

Unlike Virginia, however, Pennsylvania’s governor is a Republican. Tom Corbett is an uneven opponent of LGBT rights, though still an opponent: He has said that he will defend keeping the gay marriage ban on the books, and in the past has compared same-sex marriage to incest. But recently he changed his position on a bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, announcing his newfound support.

Other states included in the commentary is Michigan, Ohio and, interestingly enough, Southern state Virginia, where, just last week, the state’s attorney general announced that he would not only stop defending the state’s gay-marriage ban in court, but he’s joining two lawsuits to overturn it. Check out The Week‘s post here. It’s a good read, especially for those of us who want a quick refresher of LGBT rights movements around the country.