New Developments in Marriage Equality Cases in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania

1. Palladino v. Corbett, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27154 (E.D. Pa., March 4, 2014) – This is the marriage recognition case pending in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. A right-wing Christian group calling itself “Philadelphia Metro Task Force” petitioned to intervene as co-defendants, in order to make arguments about morality and family values in opposition to the plaintiffs. This is a case where the state’s Attorney General has refused to defend the state’s marriage ban and the governor has hired outside counsel. District Judge Mary McLaughlin DENIED the petition for intervention. The court said that they did not have the kind of interest necessary for federal standing, and even if they did, the court was not convinced that the existing defendants would not adequately represent their interests. The main basis for the intervention motion was that the A.G. would not adequately defend the statute, but the court said that the question now is whether the governor will adequately defend the statute. Also, Judge McLaughlin preemptively denied this group the right to file an amicus brief, saying that “there are no legal arguments made by the movants that would assist current counsel.” Although she doesn’t come right out and say it, I think McLaughlin is signaling that religious or moralistic arguments are irrelevant to the legal question of marriage recognition, so she sees no purpose in allowing an extra party into the case to make those arguments.

2. Wolf v. Walker, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27225 (W.D. Wis., March 4, 2014) – This is the right to marry and marriage recognition case pending in U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, before Judge Barbara Crabb. The plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that would order the state to allow and recognize same-sex marriages immediately, arguing that they are likely to prevail on the merits and that any delay in recognizing their marriage rights imposed an irreparable injury. Judge Crabb observed that since the Supreme Court stayed the Utah marriage decision, every subsequent court ruling in a marriage equality case has stayed its decision. In light of that, she doesn’t see the purpose of issuing a preliminary injunction that would have to be stayed. So she offered the plaintiffs a deal: if they will withdraw their motion, she will promise expedited treatment for a motion for summary judgment or trial, so that the losing side can get its case up to the court of appeals (which would be the 7th Circuit) as quickly as possible. In other words, if they want to be in the running for their case being the one that goes to the S.Ct., they should accept this deal. She also said if they are not willing to withdraw, they should file a memorandum with the court explaining whether, in light of the Utah stay, it would be appropriate for the court to enforce a preliminary injunction before the case could be heard by the 7th Circuit. This strikes me as a totally pragmatic move by a judge who is inclined to rule on the merits for the plaintiffs if they file a summary judgment motion, so she is saying “why waste time on a preliminary injunction that won’t be enforced until the case is over at the highest appellate level?”

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