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January 29, 2014

Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors Unanimously Passes Marriage Equality Resolution

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Board of Governors unanimously adopted a resolution calling for marriage equality in Pennsylvania. The resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that all people have the right to pursue their own happiness; and

WHEREAS, Section 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that the neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision shall "deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right, nor discriminate against any person in the exercise of any civil right"; and

WHEREAS, Section 28 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides the "[e]quality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the sex of the individual"; and

WHEREAS, denying same sex couples the ability to marry under civil law deprives individuals of equal protection and equal rights under the law; and

WHEREAS, such deprivations contravene the constitutions of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States of America; and

WHEREAS, in 1996, the federal government passed the Defense of Marriage Act, 110 Stat. 2419, which provided, in relevant parts, that a marriage was defined as legitimate only if between a man and a woman (1 U.S.C. § 7), and that no state was obligated to recognize a same-sex relationship treated as a marriage in another jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. § 1738C); and

WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania government passed Act 124 of 1996, which amended state statutes to define a marriage as solely between a man and a woman (23 Pa.C.S. § 1102) and to provide that no marriage between members of the same sex would be recognized in Pennsylvania (23 Pa.C.S. § 1704); and

WHEREAS, efforts have failed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to propose an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would define marriage to exclude same sex couples; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association, by Resolution dated March 30, 2006, made firm its opposition to any proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Commonwealth or its subdivisions from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or substantially equivalent to that of marriage; and

WHEREAS, the American Bar Association passed a resolution in August 2010 urging all state, territorial, and tribal governments to eliminate all of their legal barriers to civil marriage between two persons of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry.

WHEREAS, on June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court, in United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675, 570 U.S. 12, 186 L. Ed. 2d 808 (2013), invalidated Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act so that federal benefits could be afforded to same sex spouses who were lawfully married; and

WHEREAS, the Windsor opinion shows how any denial of equal marriage rights causes human beings in the Commonwealth real damage, including the loss of monetary and non-monetary benefits; and

WHEREAS, several agencies of the Federal Government, including the Internal Revenue Service, have begun recognizing same sex marriages that were valid in the place where celebrated; and

WHEREAS, same sex marriage is recognized in seventeen (17) states, the District of Columbia, and fifteen (15) other countries; and

WHEREAS, bills have been introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature (Senate Bill 719, Printer's No. 740 and House Bill 1686, Printer's No. 2496) that would make it the policy of the Commonwealth to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, to accept the resulting unions as lawful marriages, and to give legal recognition to those same sex marriages entered into in other jurisdictions; and

WHEREAS, such bills would not compel any religious sect to perform same sex marriages;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association endorses marriage equality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and

RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association hereby supports Senate Bill 719, Printer's No. 740 and House Bill 1686, Printer's No. 2496, and similar legislation that would afford same sex couples the freedom to be married within the Commonwealth; and

RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes its Chancellor or the Chancellor's designee to communicate the content of this resolution to state and local public officials, other bar associations, and the public at large, and to take such other action as may be appropriate.

The Philadelphia Bar Association, founded in 1802, is the oldest association of lawyers in the United States. The mission of the Association is to serve the profession and the public by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law. In so doing, the Association strives to foster understanding of, involvement in and access to the justice system.

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