A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Tuesday struck down the state’s 1996 law banning gay marriage, continuing the recent spate of judicial rulings that have quickly turned the tide for same-sex couples and consideration of their rights.
"We now join the 12 federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage," U.S. District Judge John Jones wrote in his opinion.
The ruling makes Pennsylvania the 19th state in the union to allow gay marriage, but an appeal by Gov. Tom Corbett's office, which has defended the same-sex marriage ban, is expected. That appeal would go to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania case included same-sex couples, their children and others who say the marriage ban deprives them of legal and tax benefits.
The Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed July 9, was the first known challenge to the state law that effectively prohibits same-sex marriage and the recognition of gay marriages from other states.
At least five later challenges have surfaced in state and federal courts since the lawsuit was filed, including one in which a county official is defending his decision to issue 174 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Oregon on Monday became the 18th state to recognize same-sex marriage, and jubilant couples began to apply for marriage licenses immediately after U.S. District Judge Michael McShane issued a ruling that invalidated that state's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban.
Also Monday, a federal judge in Utah ordered state officials to recognize more than 1,000 gay marriages that took place in the state in two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court halted same-sex weddings in the state with an emergency stay.
State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the Supreme Court's Windsor decision last year. The landmark ruling struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
There are outstanding legal challenges in nearly every state with bans on gay marriage.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press