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Updates: SS Marriage, Contraception Mandate and Gay Conversion Therapy

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act this year, our country still has a long way to go. One look at the Third Circuit -- and the cases making headlines this week alone -- is proof enough.

Today, we'll be looking at the latest movements in cases regarding same sex marriage in Pennsylvania, gay conversion therapy in New Jersey, and a Pennsylvania company's contraception mandate challenge.

Same Sex Marriage in Pennsylvania

On May 20, Judge Jones III struck down the ban on same sex marriage, writing, "We are better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history." The following day Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett released a statement saying that after reviewing the opinion, he would not appeal the district court's decision.

Normally, that would be the end of it -- but county clerk Theresa Santai-Gaffney wasn't satisfied and picked up where Gov. Corbett left off, by filing a motion to intervene and continue the appeal. Judge Jones, and the Third Circuit, did not grant the motion, so she appealed to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, Justice Alito rejected her appeal without comment, reports The Associated Press. Santai-Gaffney was reportedly "brokenhearted" (Sidebar: really, more brokenhearted than the people whose marriages you are trying to deny?) and is contemplating the next steps. We are sure there will be next steps because she stated, "I've never surrendered," reports The Standard Speaker.

Gay Conversion Therapy in New Jersey

New Jersey, along with California, are the only two states enacting laws to ban gay-conversion therapy -- and both laws faced legal challenges -- until now. Last month, the Supreme Court denied cert to a Ninth Circuit case that challenged the ban, leaving the challenge to the New Jersey law alone in its battle, reports Bloomberg. This week, the Third Circuit heard arguments in an appeal of a district court's decision leaving the law intact. We're awaiting decision, but given the Supreme Court's cert denial of a case that left a similar law intact, we don't think the Third Circuit will disturb the district court's decision.

Contraception Mandate in Pennsylvania

A few weeks ago you probably heard a lot about Hobby Lobby, but what about Conestoga Wood? A case linked to the Hobby Lobby decision, Conestoga Wood Specialities Corp. v. Burwell, was effectively reversed by the Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby. While the Third Circuit held that secular, for-profit corporations could not practice religion, and therefore couldn't challenge the contraception mandate, the Supreme Court held that closely-held corporations could practice religion, and therefore challenge, successfully, the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate. How long that will remain the law remains to be seen, as legislators are already trying to legislatively override the Court's decision.

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