Update 5/21/2014:  Governor Corbett has announced he will not be appealing the decision.  Marriage equality is now the law of Pennsylvania!

On May 20, 2014, Pennsylvania’s state version of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) was struck down by a federal district court, in response to a lawsuit filed by several LGBT couples and families.  This decision is another huge victory in the national fight for marriage equality.  If you’re interested in reading the decision, please click here

The court’s decision takes effect immediately, and gay couples are now allowed to apply for and receive marriage licenses in Pennsylvania.  Governor Corbett has announced that he will not be appealing the decision, so the court’s decision is the final word on the matter in Pennsylvania.  Marriage equality is here to stay!

As you may know, Pennsylvania same-sex couples who were married in other states have been able to seek federal benefits, such as immigration benefits, for their spouses since the June 2013 Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA.  If you are interested in petitioning for immigration benefits for a same-sex spouse, and would like to read more about the process, please click here to read our FAQ on LGBT immigration rights.  We have already successfully petitioned for dozens of couples in Pennsylvania and other states to obtain immigration rights that they waited for years (and in some cases, decades) to obtain. 

Additionally, today’s decision will end discrimination against gay and lesbian couples in several important ways that do not pertain to immigration rights:

0    Most obviously, unmarried gay and lesbian couples may now apply for and receive a marriage license in Pennsylvania.  To learn more about how to get married in Pennsylvania, please your county’s website; for example here are some links to how to obtain marriage licenses in some of Pennsylvania’s larger counties (for help finding marriage license information in other counties, please contact us):



















0    For LGBT couples legally married in other states (or countries), your marriages are now recognized in Pennsylvania. 

0    Same-sex couples may now file state taxes jointly in Pennsylvania (federal joint tax returns have been permitted since last year’s Supreme Court decision).

0    As mentioned above, LGBT bi-national couples may now seek immigration benefits based on a marriage performed in Pennsylvania, without having to travel to another state to get married. 

0    Gay and lesbian couples may jointly adopt children without one of the parents needing to secondarily “adopt” their child through a “second-parent adoption.” 

0    LGBT married couples may inherit property from their spouse without needing to pay the inheritance tax rate for non-married couples. 

0    In situations where one of the spouses is hospitalized, the hospital must recognize his or her same-sex marriage in allowing his or her spouse to support him or her during the hospitalization.

0    And, perhaps most significantly, the state-instituted stigma against LGBT couples has been declared unconstitutional.  As the district court explained, no longer will a same-sex couple need to return to Pennsylvania with dread that their lawful marriage is not recognized in their home state. 

As explained above, immigration rights have been available for married LGBT couples in Pennsylvania since June 2013.  However, if you have waited for marriage equality in Pennsylvania to seek immigration benefits, and would like to arrange a free consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss your immigration matter, please call us at (215) 558-7600 or e-mail us

To read more about immigration benefits for same-sex couples, you can read our introduction and answers to commonly asked questions here.  Additionally, for a summary of issues commonly faced by LGBT couples in the immigration process, please click here

Please keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different, and none of the information on this website can be considered to be legal advice.  In order for us to properly advise you on your immigration case, please call us at (215) 558-7600 or e-mail us.

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Since DOMA was struck down, Kate Lenahan has filed successful immigration petitions, including petitions for fiancé(e) visa, on behalf of numerous same-sex couples in Pennsylvania and other states who waited for too long for equality in United States immigration law.  Prior to DOMA’s defeat, Kate helped many same-sex bi-national couples prepare for the decision, while at the same time working with such couples to find alternate ways of staying in the country, such as asylum or non-immigrant visas. 

Kate began to focus on LGBT immigration issues when she was a Legal Fellow at Immigration Equality, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing legal services to LGBT immigrants.  E-mail or call Kate at (215) 558-7600 to set up a free consultation about your immigration issue.     

Marriage Equality in Pennsylvania!  Pennsylvania Court Finds State Equivalent of DOMA Violates Rights of LGBT Individuals

by Kate Lenahan: last updated May 21, 2014

Excerpt from Judge Jones’s Opinion in Whitewood v. Wolf:

“[I]n future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.  We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

For a free phone consultation about your immigration case, please call

(215) 558-7600          or e-mail us at info@brophylenahan.com