Love Wins: What Changes In Marriage Laws Mean For Philadelphia's Same-Sex Couples

Aesha Desai, for GPA -- For years, Pennsylvania was the only state in the Northeastern U.S. that did not embrace marriage equality by providing civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other form of relationship recognition to same-sex couples. Finally, the bill to legalize same sex marriage was introduced in October by State Representatives Brian Sims and Steve McCarter. Six months later, on May 20, it became official. The new marriage reform act allows Philadelphia to stand out as one of the world’s most LGBT-friendly cities.

“We now join the 12 federal district courts across the country, which, when confronted with these inequalities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage,” stated federal judge John Edward Jones III in a ruling that struck down the state statute barring same-sex marriage.

Brian Sims, the first openly LGBT candidate elected to state legislature, gave his thoughts on the legislation. "This is a city that is truly respecting all its citizens,” he said. “It is because of that respect that we are indeed a first-class city and we will continue to shine."

Within 15 minutes of the announcement of Judge Jones’ ruling, Ruthellen Landau and Kerry Smith became the first same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license in Philadelphia. Several hundred people gathered outside of City Hall, celebrating the decision and waving rainbow flags. A sea of banners reading “Love Wins” filled the intersection of 14th St. and JFK Blvd.

"My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues," Mayor Nutter told NBC's Philadelphia affiliate, WCAU.

The new reforms include tax incentive programs to businesses that offer health care benefits and trans-inclusive health care to same sex partners and their children. In addition, the statute includes revisions to Philadelphia’s discriminatory rules. Now businesses and schools cannot discriminate based on gender identity and new buildings must provide gender neutral restrooms. These policies are supported by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Now that Pennsylvania has legalized same-sex marriage, Florida and Wisconsin look like the next contenders to follow what has become a national trend in progressive steps for marriage reform in the United States.

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”

-Joan d’Arc.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times.