Task Force Barred from Gay Marriage Law Suit
(CN) - A Philadelphia suburban organization cannot intervene in a same-sex couple's suit challenging laws that fail to recognize their Massachusetts marriage, a federal judge ruled.
Isabelle Barker and Cara Palladino, a couple married in Massachusetts, sued Pennsylvania, their current state of residence, in federal court in September, seeking a permanent injunction directing the state to recognize their and others' legal out-of-state same-sex marriages.
The couple also wants a declaration that certain sections of the Commonwealth's Constitution and the federal Defense of Marriage Act are unconstitutional.
Gov. Tom Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen Kane respectively moved to dismiss in November and December, and Palladino and Barker moved for summary judgment in January.
Days later, James Schneller, representing the city's "Metro Task Force" - a self-described "community organization formed to support and encourage upholding of family values and morality in government" - moved to intervene in the matter.
Though the movants support the Pennsylvania statute at issue in the case, they oppose Kane's motion to dismiss, arguing that their intervention would "deeply affect the posture and merit" of both the plaintiffs' and attorney general's motions.
The Task Force claims that Palladino and Barker have caused the greater Philadelphia area to endure "derogation of rights to comfort, and basic necessities like safety and well-being."
The lawsuit allegedly threatens the movants' rights to "liberty, religious expression, freedom from seizure and confiscation, and other basic rights, and regarding property."
According to the application, any decision in the gay couple's favor would result in "reverse discrimination" of the community's religion, morals, ancestry, and age.
The Task Force says its interests differ from those of the state, as "recent decisions" show "a trend to omit or un-prioritize health-, moral- and traditional family-related considerations."
The movants further claim that they alone could add evidence from city human relations commissions proceedings regarding a new protected class based on "sexual orientation."
Schneller says the members of his organization has standing to intervene as "taxpayers objecting to what would be exorbitant expenditures of Commonwealth principal ... including administrative upheaval requiring voluminous changes to software, policy, and the justice system."
U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin denied the Task Force's application March 3, finding its "family values" are "insufficiently direct or specific to movants to warrant intervention."
The movants' claims are "conclusory at best and delineate only a general, attenuated interest that could presumably be raised by any other Pennsylvania citizen so inclined," McLaughlin wrote. "Furthermore, the movants' application is unclear as to how any relief requested by the plaintiffs would directly affect those interests."
The Metro Task Force's interests are adequately represented by the state, the ruling states.
"Based on the movants' actions thus far in this case, the court is concerned that the movants would 'seek to file more claims, amend pleadings even further, and inject issues that may not lead directly to a resolution of the issues circumscribed by the present pleadings,'" McLaughlin wrote. "To the extent that the movants raise 'reverse discrimination' or other 'family values' issues, they could delay the action because those issues are only tangentially related to the plaintiffs' complaint."
Relying on the Sixth Circuit's refusal to let an "openly hostile" anti-abortion group intervene in a suit challenging an abortion law in 2007, McLaughlin held that the "movants have also not identified how their ideological interests would be affected by this litigation in any concrete way. The generalized and attenuated harm suggested by the movants, whether as taxpayers or to their religious or moral beliefs, does not persuade the court that permissive intervention is warranted here."
The Task Force cannot appear as amicus curiae either, according to the ruling.