Blog of Rights

Love Is Apparently Not All You Need

By Will Matthews, ACLU of Northern California at 5:08pm

Peter Goldberger and Anna Durbin have been married for 30 years and have raised three children.

But on this Valentine's Day, when the Ardmore, Pa. couple's only concern should be celebrating three decades of unyielding devotion to each other, Peter and Anna will instead be worrying about whether the state of Pennsylvania considers their marriage to be legally valid.

In affirming the wishes of another couple to have their marriage annulled last September, York County Judge Maria Musti Cook delivered a sweepingly broad ruling that said marriages are invalid if presided over by a minister who does not regularly serve a church or preach in a physical house of worship.

As a result, Anna and Peter's marriage, officiated by an ordained Catholic priest who at the time was clerking for a United States District Court Judge, might well be in jeopardy.

Thousands of other Pennsylvania marriages might be in danger as well.

So today, in true Valentine's Day spirit, the ACLU filed three lawsuits in an effort to protect marriage in Pennsylvania. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of Goldberger and Durbin, as well as two other Pennsylvania couples, both of whose marriages were officiated by ministers of the Universal Life Church and who gained their ordained status over the internet.

The issue at hand, as ACLU of Pennsylvania staff attorney Mary Catherine Roper has put it in conversations with reporters today, is that the state has no business saying that one kind of minister is better than another.

"The state has no business invalidating marriages just because it doesn't like the kind of minister who officiated them," Roper said.

Cupid himself couldn't have said it any better.

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