LGBT Rights and Gay Marriage in Pennsylvania



If you still have no answer to the question is gay marriage legal in pa, this article can be of great help. Keep reading to find out more about the history of same-sex marriage and the rights of LGBTQ citizens in Pennsylvania.


Is gay marriage legal in Pennsylvania?

Gay marriage is legal in Pennsylvania since 2014 when a federal district judge found that the statutory ban on same-sex marriage from 1996 was unconstitutional. Before this ban, citizens who were in a same-sex relationship in Pennsylvania did not have the right to marry in this state. When compared to the other northern states in the region, Pennsylvania was the last state who recognized gay marriage. 

In 1973, homosexuality was declassified as an illness in pa. Same-sex sexual activities between the residents of the state have been considered legal, and, thus, not punishable by law, since 1980.


The history of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania

The first official document that banned same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania was signed on the 16th of October 1996 by Tom Ridge, the governor in function. 

Between 1996 and 2013, numerous organizations and foundations worked together to bring awareness about the rights of same-sex couples. The conversation that these organizations opened was aimed at helping the public at large learn to understand and accept the members of the gay community.

After years of educational directives, in May 2013, a poll carried out among the citizens of the state showed that a significant part of the population was in favor of gay marriage. In July 2013, same-sex couples, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal case with the purpose of legalizing gay marriage in the state. 

As this case gained momentum, more and more similar cases were filed. In July 2013, Attorney General Kathleen Kane stated that she was against defending laws that banned same-sex marriages as they were unconstitutional. 

In 2014, the ban on same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania was deemed unconstitutional, and gay couples in the state were allowed to get married. In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ended marriage discrimination laws and declared that same-sex marriages were legal across the country.


Groups and organizations that fought for gay marriage

As the events presented above show it, the road to marriage equality in Pennsylvania was not simple. To achieve this goal, numerous groups and organizations advocated for the rights of the gay community and they worked to educate the citizens of the state so that they became more understanding and opened to the idea of same-sex marriages. 

Freedom to marry was the name of the campaign that eventually lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in pa, and in the US. The founder and the president of this campaign was Evan Wolfson, a Harvard Law alumnus. Another campaign that had an essential role in legalizing gay marriage in the state was Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania. 

Equality Pennsylvania is another organization that is still advocating and fighting for LGBT rights in the state. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that also aims at securing the same rights for minorities in the state. The ACLU was founded in the 1920s and managed to help a wide array of people and it still does so today through efficient policies that cater to the needs of marginalized communities. 


Domestic partnerships

Apart from allowing same-sex couples to get married in Pennsylvania, the state also recognizes domestic partnerships. A domestic partnership is defined as the union of two individuals who are in a relationship and who are together, but who are not married. 

Citizens in domestic partnerships enjoy part of the same rights as those who are married such as the right to take time off to care for a partner, as well as the right to visit a loved one in the hospital. 

In the case of domestic partnerships, it is important to point out that not all states offer this arrangement. When these partnerships are available, the couples who wish to enter into a partnership have to meet a series of qualifications that are similar to those required for marriage. This includes the fact that the couple has to complete a series of forms and to register at a designated office or a courthouse.

In the city of Philadelphia, for instance, exempt employees who enter domestic partnerships have the same leave and health benefits as spouses. 

To quality as a domestic partner, Philadelphia citizens of the same gender have to be in a committed relationship, they have to share a residence, be at least 18, not be related, be each other’s domestic partner, to agree to be responsible for the welfare of one another and to not have been in any other domestic partnership in the last six months.  


Public opinion

It could be argued that Pennsylvania is an accepting state when it comes to same-sex marriage. A poll carried out by the Public Religion Research Institute in 2017 showed that 64% of the residents supported gay marriage. Only 27% of the respondents expressed opposing views. 


The right to adopt and parent

The state of Pennsylvania allows all its citizens, no matter their sexual orientation to adopt and parent children. However, the right to adopt for the gay community is a somewhat recent one. Until 2002, same-sex persons were not allowed to adopt children as the first parent.

After a ruling by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, same-sex couples now have the right to stepchild adoptions. Moreover, it is worth pointing out that there are no laws that prohibit same-sex couples to adopt a child together. Als, gay male couples have the right to make surrogacy arrangements. 


Hate crime

In 2002, in an attempt to protect its LGBT citizens, the state of Pennsylvania passed a hate crime law that protected this community. Sadly, the same law was eventually struck down six years later, in 2008 due to a technicality.

Even though attempts to reinstate this piece of legislation were made, this important law has not yet made it to a committee again.  

However, some executive orders that directly protect the members of the LGBT community from work-related discrimination do exist. In a historic move, in 1975, Pennsylvania became the very first state to issue an order that banned discrimination against its citizens based on their sexual orientation.In 2003, this executive order was changed so that gender identity was also added to it. 

Anti-discrimination policies have been implemented in the state. Since August 2018, LGBT people who feel like they have been discriminated against in education, housing, public accommodation or employment can now file complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. 

In May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania became the first and only US jurisdiction to feature both gender identity and sexual orientation data in the statistics concerning the evolution of this virus. 


Gender identity

Since August 2016, the transgender people in Pennsylvania are no longer required to undergo sex reassignment surgery to change their gender in their official documents such as their birth certificates. 

Even more so, since July 1st, 2020, the gender designation options that the residents of Pennsylvania have for their driver’s licenses as well as their photo ID cards are no longer only two, but three, male (M), female (F), and X (or non-binary).

According to a statement by PennDOT, this change was made in an attempt to accommodate the needs and requirements of all Pennsylvania citizens. 


Other LGBT rights 

Since September 20th, 2011, gays and lesbians can openly serve in the military in the state of Pennsylvania. The age of consent in the state is also the same for all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender.

When it comes to conversion therapy, the status of this practice is ambiguous. While some cities have voted and banned conversion therapy, this practice is still legal in the state, even though numerous organizations like the American Psychological Association have denounced it. A statewide ban concerning conversion therapy is now pending. 

Gay men were banned from donating blood in Pennsylvania since 1983 in the context of the AIDS crisis. Yet, in recent years, steps have been made in an attempt to lift these restrictions that have been labeled by many organizations as insulting and hurtful. In 2019, the ban on blood donation by gay as well as bisexual men has been lifted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Each year, numerous gay pride events are held all over the state. One of the biggest and most popular events of this type is the LGBT Pride Parade and Festival in Philadelphia. 

Even though Pennsylvania is one of the states that has taken plenty of steps in protecting its LGBT citizens, there are still some laws that are needed. For instance, there is no regulation that bans LGBT bullying in schools and colleges. Moreover, the gay and trans panic defense is still legal, and LGBT-inclusive sex education is not taught in schools.