HARRISBURG – A federal judge said Wednesday he would not set a trial date just yet for a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage.
At a scheduling meeting with nearly a dozen attorneys, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said he wants to consider and rule on pre-trial motions, particularly one that claims the federal courts lack jurisdiction over state marriage laws, before the case goes further.
“If we’re right … the case is over,” said William Lamb, a former state Supreme Court justice who represents Gov. Tom Corbett and state Health Secretary Michael Wolf in the case. He was referring to a four-decades-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that is the basis for Lamb’s motion to dismiss Corbett and Wolf as defendants.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case say they don’t expect the motion to be granted. If it is, they said they will appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
Jones said he would decide that and other motions by mid-November and set a follow-up scheduling meeting for Nov. 22, when he is more likely to set a trial date. The judge said the trial dates suggested so far by the two sides are about a year apart.
“I can’t see any reason that this case shouldn’t be tried in (2014), and earlier rather than later,” Jones said.
The suit also names state Attorney General Kathleen Kane and the registers of wills in Bucks and Washington counties. All of them want to be released as defendants.
The lawsuit, the first in a growing number of challenges to the Pennsylvania law, was filed in July on behalf of 10 same-sex couples, one couple’s two teenage daughters and a widow.
Gay marriages are legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia. All the Northeast states allow same-sex marriage except New Jersey, which allows civil unions, and Pennsylvania.