Civil Liberties

Lawsuits Challenge State Bans on Gay Marriage

The last legal frontier after the DOMA decision


The ACLU on Tuesday announced a trio of lawsuits that will test the constitutionality of state laws barring gay marriage.

The suits, filed in Pennsylvania and North Carolina with another to come in Virginia, are part of a carefully crafted effort to capitalize on the Supreme Court's recent same-sex marriage ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That law, known as DOMA, barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Legal challenges to state same-sex marriage bans have popped up in other places since the Supreme Court's decision last month. But the ACLU was a central figure in the DOMA case, U.S. v. Windsor, and it has the resources to launch a coordinated, potent campaign in the states.

The lawsuit in Pennsylvania, the only northeast state that bans gay marriage and does not allow civil unions, focuses on the state's refusal to recognize other states' legally performed same-sex marriages.  Many said after the Supreme Court ruling that such a stance now might be legally vulnerable.