Whitewood v. Wolf - Freedom to Marry in Pennsylvania

May 21, 2014

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union, and volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the Commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages. The lawsuit alleges that Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act and refusal to marry lesbian and gay couples or recognize their out-of-state marriages violates the fundamental right to marry as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Status: On May 20, 2014, the district judge issued a decision striking down Pennsylvania's marriage ban as unconstitutional. The following day the governor announced he would not appeal the decision. Marriages in Pennsylvania of same-sex couples have begun.


Deb and Susan Whitewood

Deb and Susan Whitewood. Together for 22 years, Deb, a stay-at-home mom, and Susan, an executive at BNY Mellon, live in Bridgeville with their three children, two dogs, one cat, and two tanks full of fish.

Fredia and Lynn Hurdle

Fredia and Lynn Hurdle. Fredia, 49, drives a truck for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and is a member of the Teamsters. Lynn, 43, is a pediatric nurse. They met 22 years ago when Fredia was driving a Greyhound bus and Lynn was a passenger. It was a new route for Fredia, and Lynn tried to help out with directions. They dated via Greyhound for five months, and then Fredia moved from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh to be with Lynn. They've been together ever since.

Ed Hill and David Palmer

Ed Hill and David Palmer. Born and bred Pennsylvanians, Ed, 67, grew up near Pittsburgh and David, 65, grew up outside of Wilkes-Barre in Trucksville. They've been together for almost 25 years and are planning a big party to celebrate their silver anniversary next month. Ed is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in Vietnam and, after that, spent most of his career at the Department of Veterans Affairs. David was director of exhibitions at a museum. When Ed was offered early retirement in 1996, they opened a bed and breakfast in Bangor. The couple retired "for real" five years ago.

Heather and Kath Poehler

Heather and Kath Poehler. Together 10 years and wed in Massachusetts, where they used to live, Heather, 44, and Kath, 41, reluctantly gave up the legal protections of marriage when they moved to Pennsylvania in 2007 after Heather was offered a job here. Since then they've put down roots, starting up a roller derby league and settling down on the edge of town in Downingtown with three rescue dogs, two cats, and seven chickens.

Fernando Chang-Muy and Len Rieser

Fernando Chang-Muy and Len Rieser. Together for 32 years, Fernando and Len are both attorneys who have dedicated their careers to serving the public interest. They both currently teach at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Fernando, who is 58, was born in Cuba and came to the United States with his family when he was a child. Len, 64, grew up in Vermont. The couple moved to Philadelphia in 1982 when Fernando was offered a job there; it has been their home ever since.

Dawn Plummer and Diana Polson

Dawn Plummer and Diana Polson. Dawn and Diana met on a study abroad trip and bonded over their shared commitment to social justice. They have now been together for 13 years. Dawn, 36, works for an anti-poverty organization. Diana, 37, recently finished her Ph.D. and does research on improving the Pennsylvania economy for working people.

Angela Gillem and Gail Lloyd

Angela Gillem and Gail Lloyd. Angela and Gail have lived together for 17 years. Angela, 60, is a clinical psychologist and professor at Arcadia University, and Gail, 55, is a filmmaker and visual artist who graduated from Temple University's Film and Media Arts Program. They practice Buddhism and meditation together.

Helena Miller and Dara Raspberry

Helena Miller and Dara Raspberry. Helena, a teacher and education consultant, and Dara, an emergency room doctor, have been a couple for six years and were married in Connecticut on September 25, 2010. Helena, 39, and Dara, 43, moved from New York to Philadelphia in the fall of 2011 because they were hoping to have children and wanted to be closer to their families.

Ron Gebhardtsbauer and Greg Wright

Ron Gebhardtsbauer and Greg Wright. Ron and Greg met in the summer of 1994. Ron, 60, teaches actuarial science at Penn State University and Greg, 56, is an acupuncturist in private practice. They moved to Pennsylvania when Ron started working at Penn State five years ago. They registered as domestic partners in State College as soon as that became possible in 2011, and they are currently engaged to be married. It is important to them to marry in Pennsylvania because it's their home and they would like to be able to marry in their own church. Their minister has already agreed to officiate at the ceremony if that becomes an option for them legally.

Marla Cattermole and Julia Lobur

Marla Cattermole and Julia Lobur. Marla, 54, and Julia, 58, met when they were in Army basic training together in 1983, started dating a couple of years later, and have been together for 27 years. Julia was discharged during basic training after her superiors learned of her sexual orientation. Military policy at the time barred lesbians and gay men from serving. Marla went on to serve for 12 years and left the Army as a sergeant in 1995. They now live in Harrisburg, where they both work for the commonwealth. Julia is a software architect/project manager and teaches computer science at Penn State Harrisburg. Marla is a senior benefits manager.

Maureen Hennessey

Maureen Hennessey. Maureen lived with the love of her life, Mary Beth McIntyre, from 1984 until Mary Beth's death on May 18, 2013, at the age of 55.

Sandy Ferlanie and Christine Donato

Sandy Ferlanie and Christine Donato. Sandy Ferlanie, 45, and Christine Donato, 44, have lived together in a committed relationship for 17 years. Christine has lived in Pennsylvania her entire life, and Sandy has lived in Pennsylvania since she was 11. Sandy is a trained nurse and works on drug safety at a pharmaceutical company, and Christine is a consultant for pharmaceutical companies.


Out for Freedom: The ACLU is pursuing three new federal marriage cases – in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia.  These cases are part of our post-DOMA, post-Prop 8 plan for winning the freedom to marry nationwide.

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