United States of America


Limited information only available for these topics

Access to Children
Adoption of Children
Age of Consent
Artifical Insemination
Assisted Reproduction
Civil Unions
  Custody of Children
Fostering Children
Estates, Inheritance
Gender Identity
Hate Crimes
  Health, Medical
Inheritance, Succession
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
Transgender, Transsexual
Wrongful Death

Please read the Disclaimer

See also: Equality Advocates Pennsylvania Issues & Information

Children: Access, Custody, Visitation Legislation/Cases/References


On 23 January 2011, Act 112 (HB 1639), the Child Custody Act of 2010 took effect.

Pennsylvania Code. Title 23 - Domestic Relations. Chapter 53 - Custody [L1.1]

§ 5301. Declaration of Policy

“ … it is public policy of this Commonwealth, when in the best interest of the child, to assure a reasonable and continuing contact of the child with both parents after a separation or dissolution of the marriage and the sharing of the rights and responsibilities of child rearing by both parents and continuing contact of the child or children with grandparents when a parent is deceased, divorced or separated.”.

Factors to consider when awarding custody include (summarised)

  1. Courts will be prohibited from assuming that custody should be awarded to a particular parent based solely on gender [§ 5328 (b)].
  2. Contempt citations for willful violations of custody orders will be gender neutral.
  3. Consideration must be given to a comprehensive list of factors, including:
    • Which parent is more likely to encourage and permit frequent contact with the other parent [§ 5328 (a)(1)]
    • Parental duties of each parent [§ 5328 (a)(3)]
    • The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and community life [§ 5328 (a)(4)]
    • Assuring access to siblings and extended family [§ 5328 (a)(5)(6)]
    • Protection for victims of domestic violence [§ 5328 (a)(2)]
  4. Judges must provide an explanation of custody decisions [§ 5323 (d)].
  5. A framework will be used by Judges in making relocation decisions [§ 5337].
  6. Relocation decisions will require consideration of how the move will enhance the quality of life for the child and not just how it will benefit the parent seeking to move [§ 5337 (h)(6)(7)].
  7. Each parent must submit a parenting plan in cases of contested custody, allow for appointment of a guardian ad litem or counsel for the child when necessary [§ 5331].
  8. The list of criminal convictions courts may consider in determining custody has been expanded [§ 5329].

Courts & Tribunals

On 04 January 2013, Judge Christopher J St. John in the Mercer County Common Pleas Court granted custody of an 11-year-old girl at the center of a lengthy, high-profile same-sex custody battle to Lisa Lewis, the non-biological mother who is also the girl's biological great-aunt [C2.7], [R2.6].

In January 2010, the eight-judge appellate court ruled that a parent's same-sex relationship cannot be used against the parent in determining child custody, rejecting a 25-year-old state legal precedent [R2.5].

On 26 September 2005, the 3-judge Superior Court said " … that the record supports a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the children are served by granting primary physical custody to Jones …", the lesbian partner of the biological parent of twins [C2.4], [R2.3].

In 2001, a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in favour of a non-biological lesbian caregiver having visitation rights with a girl she claims she raised from birth to age 3 [R2.2].

The case is on appeal to the State Supreme Court.

In June 1998, it was reported that Courts in Pennsylvania have held that nonbiological partners have the right to sue for custody of an ex-partner's biological child [R2.1].

L1.1 Pennsylvania General Assembly: HB 1639 PDF 161.52.kb
C2.7 Quaere: Lisa Lewis v. Jeannette Rowan No. 323 WDA 2009 A27033/09
R2.6 New Castle News: Biological mom loses same-sex custody case 07 JAN 13
R2.5 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Court Backs Gay Parent 25 FEB 10
C2.4 Lambda Legal: Jones v. Jones No. 271 EDA 2005 PDF 34.66kb, 26 SEP 05
R2.3 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Court Affirms Rights of Lesbian Mother 29 SEP 05
R2.2 Associated Press: Pennsylvania High Court Hears Arguments on Lesbian's Visitation Rights 10 SEP 01
R2.1 FrontiersWeb: Ruled Out JUN 98
Civil Unions, Partners: Domestic, Registered Legislation/Cases/References


In May 2009, the Pennsylvania Employees Benefits Trust Fund approved a policy enabling same-sex partners of state employees who have lived with their partner for at least six months to be eligible for full health care benefits from July. Their children also are eligible [R1.3].

In July 2003, a new state employee contract took effect extending family leave benefits to gay partners in about one-third of the commonwealth's work force [R1.2].

The new benefits do not include health care. They extend family and sick leave benefits (including bereavement or extended leave to care for partners or children) to gay partners if they are a supervisor or a member of one of the state locals of the Service Employees International Union [R1.2].

The benefits may also cover another 13,000 nonunion state employees, mostly supervisors [R1.2].

Rules for the benefits have yet to be written and are expected to require the employee and partner to sign a statement of commitment before receiving benefits [R1.2].

In December 1998, Penn State's Faculty Senate took action for the first time to recommend extending health benefits to same-sex domestic partners [R1.1].


Counties & Boroughs

On 07 July 2014, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald gave county employees in same-sex domestic partnerships another year (until 30 June 2015) to marry to acquire county benefits [R2.4].

On 25 June 2014, Allegheny County officials reportedly announced a change in policy effective 01 August, cutting off benefits to same-sex partners of its employees unless the couple are married. This follows Court decision in Deb Whitewood, et at., v. Michael Wolf striking down the statutory ban on same-sex marriage [R2.3].


On 03 March 2012, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signed an executive order allowing county workers to enroll their eligible "same-sex domestic partner" for receipt of health and dental benefits beginning 05 March, for coverage beginning 01 April [R2.2].

To extend the coverage, both the county employee and his or her partner must:

  • be at least 18 and mentally competent
  • not be legally married to nor the domestic partner of another person
  • have voluntarily entered the relationship "intending the relationship to be the functional equivalent of marriage, including living together as a couple, mutual financial support, mutual caring and commitment, mutual fidelity and mutual responsibility for each other's welfare"
  • have been in their relationship for at least 12 months before applying for benefits
  • be able to prove their bond by providing documents such as a joint lease or deed, joint credit or checking account statements, or designation as the primary beneficiary in the employee's will, life insurance policy or retirement contract
  • complete an affidavit of domestic partnership form and have it notarized [R2.2].

On 01 October 2011, the State College Borough Domestic Partner Registry opened. The Domestic Partner Registry Ordinance was passed unanimously 01 August 2011 [R2.1].


Cities & Towns

On 08 May 2013, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A Decker signed Bill No. 130224 into law [L3.11]. See below [R3.10].

On 25 April 2013, Philadelphia City Council passed 14-3 Bill 130224 offering tax credit incentives to businesses that allow the families of LGBT employees to enroll for family health benefits and offer transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits to employees. Further revisions provide for non-discriminatory equal treatment for all, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation [R3.10].

On 12 December 2011, Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed Equal Benefits Bill No. 110057 into law, to take effect 01 July 2012 [R3.9].

On 01 December 2011, the Philadelphia Council passed the Equal Benefits Bill #110057 which will reguire employers who perform work on projects that cost more than $250,000 to provide health coverage and other benefits to the same-sex partners of their workers [R3.8].

On 25 May 2011, Easton city council voted unanimously for an ordinance (signed by Mayor Sal Panto 06 June), which provides the partners of gay and lesbian employees with the same benefits as the husbands and wives of heterosexual workers with effect from 01 January 2011 [R3.7].

On 03 May 2011, York City Council voted for a resolution that will extend benefits to domestic partners of city employees and their children. The benefits will be extended to same or opposite sex domestic partners who share a residence for six months, subject to their providing three of the following items (Each must be dated at least six months prior to the effective date an employee wants to enroll the domestic partner):

  1. A domestic partnership agreement as recognized by a governmental entity;
  2. Deed or lease evidencing a common ownership of real property or a common leasehold interest in property;
  3. Evidence of joint title to a motor vehicle;
  4. Driver's license listing a common address;
  5. Proof of joint bank accounts or credit accounts;
  6. Proof of designation as a beneficiary for life insurance or retirement benefits or beneficiary designation under a partner's will;
  7. Assignment of durable power of attorney [R3.6].

On 12 April 2011, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray announced a policy allowing city employees (who can certify that they have been in a relationship for 12 months [R3.6]) to seek the same health care and other employment benefits for their same-sex partners that are now available to employees and retirees with spouses. The policy is an administrative action, which does not require City Council approval [R3.5].

On 27 January 2011, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski signed a bill granting medical benefits to same-sex partners of city employees into law [R3.4].


On 19 January 2011, the city council of Allentown voted to extend medical benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees, not including firefighters and police officers [R3.3].

On 15 December 2010, a bill to offer medical benefits to partners of gay employees, whether active or retired, was introduced to Allentown municipality. The bill was expected to be debated in January 2011 [R3.2].

In September 2003, a Pittsburgh Police Bureau contract extended health insurance, dental insurance and vision care to domestic partners who sign an affidavit affirming not only mutual financial support and responsibility but also "mutual caring and commitment" and "mutual fidelity" [R3.1].

In 1998, the Philadelphia City Council passed an ordinance recognizing same-sex relationships, and granting health and pension benefits to gay partners of city employees, among other advantages [R4.3].

However in August 2002, a state appeals court overturned the ordinance. See 3. Courts & Tribunals [R4.3].

An ordinance that allows city employees to assign pension benefits to anyone they wished, was not affected by the Commonwealth Court ruling [R4.3].


Courts & Tribunals

In December 2002, a Pennsylvania superior court panel ruled that the lesbian former partner of a woman who bore five children during their relationship must pay child support, despite the partner's argument that she is neither the biological nor adoptive parent [R4.5].

In September 2002, the City planned to appeal the Commonwealth Court decision that struck down a tax break and city health benefits for same-sex partners [R4.4].

In August 2002, a state appeals court overturned the groundbreaking Philadelphia ordinance granting health and pension benefits to gay partners [R4.3].


In 2000, a Common Pleas Court judge upheld the Philadelphia City Council's authority to grant health and pension benefits to same-sex partners of city employees [R4.2].

In 1997, a man appealed a ruling that he pay his wife spousal support after she left him for another woman on the grounds that she wasn't entitled to spousal support because she committed adultery [R4.1].

R1.3 The Advocate: DP Benefits OK'd for Pennsylvania Employees 20 MAY 09
R1.2 Harrisburg Patriot-News: State union pact allows gay partners family leave 05 AUG 03
R1.1 Center Daily Times: Penn State Panel Recommends Benefits for Workers' Same-Sex Partners 08 DEC 98
Counties & Boroughs
R2.4 theAlmanac: Week of July 9 07 JUL 14
R2.3 LGBTQ Nation: Pennsylvania county to require same-sex couples to marry to retain benefits 25 JUN 14
R2.2 Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Gay partners of county workers to get insurance 03 MAR 12
R2.1 Centre Daily Times: Borough same-sex registry growing 14 NOV 11
Cities & Towns
L3.11 Bill No. 130224 PDF 92.04kb, 13 MAY 13
R3.10 PinkNews: Philadelphia City Council passes landmark bill for LGBT benefits 26 APR 13
R3.9 Nutter Signs Equal Benefits Bill 12 DEC 11
R3.8 The Republic: Philadelphia council approves bill requiring contracts to offer same-sex benefits for workers 03 DEC 11
R3.7 EastonPatch: Easton Approves Benefits for Same Sex Partners 25 MAY 11
R3.6 York Daily Record/York Sunday News: York, Lancaster both offer domestic partner benefits 05 MAY 11
R3.5 Lancaster Online: Gray OKs same-sex benefits policy for city employees 12 APR 11
R3.4 The Times Leader: Allentown now offers domestic partner benefits 27 JAN 11
R3.3 The Advocate: Allentown OKs Domestic-Partner Benefits 20 JAN 11
R3.2 The Morning Call: Allentown considers extending medical benefits to same-sex couples 27 DEC 10
R3.1 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Police contract gives benefits to same-sex couples 15 SEP 03
Courts & Tribunals
R4.5 The Advocate: Court Orders Nonbiological Parent to Pay Child Support 20 DEC 02
R4.4 Philadelphia Inquirer: City to fight ruling on benefits for same-sex couples 03 SEP 02
R4.3 Philadelphia Inquirer: Same-sex Couples Worry Over Severed Benefits 31 AUG 02
R4.2 Philadelphia Inquirer: Judge Rejects Suit Over Same-sex Benefits 07 OCT 00
R4.1 Capital Q: Can Lesbian Sex be Adultery? 24 OCT 97
Discrimination Legislation/Cases/References


As at 11 July 2014, the state lacks a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity although thirty-four municipalities across the state have some type of pro-LGBT ordinance [R1.4].

On 07 May 2013, Bills HB 300 / SB 300 were reintroduced that if passed and signed into law, would prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community in housing and employment [R1.3].

In October 2002, the Human Relations Act and Fair Educational Opportunities Act protected people from discrimination based on race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin and disability but NOT sexual orientation or gender [R1.2].

See also: 3. Cities & Towns.

In August 2001, Governor Frank O'Bannon signed a state employment policy that prohibits job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation [R1.1].


Counties & Boroughs

On 29 November 2011, Jenkintown Borough enacted nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Similar ordinances have also passed in Doylestown Borough and Newtown Borough [R2.2].

In February 2002, Erie County Council passed a long-anticipated civil rights ordinance extending protection from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in a 6-1 veto-proof vote [R2.1].


Cities & Towns

On 08 May 2013, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed legislation offering tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBT employees' domestic partners and their children as well as requiring gender-neutral bathrooms in newly constructed city-owned buildings, revising anti-discrimination law to include transgender people, extending decision-making rights to life partners on medical and other issues [L3.9], [R3.8].

In 2011, nondiscrimination ordinances were passed in Lower Merion Township, Haverford Township, Springfield Township and Whitemarsh Township [R2.2].

On 08 December 2011, the municipal commission of Susquehanna Township, adopted an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations [R3.7].

On 14 June 2011, Bethlehem City Council voted unanimously to set up a Human Relations Commission in an ordinance that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public places, employment, housing and schools [R3.6].

On 24 March 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed into law the City Council's unanimously approved and completely revised and expanded version of the Fair Practices Code, renamed as Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination [R3.5].

The new Code clarifies coverage against discrimination for persons living with HIV and also recognizes the newly-established categories of marital status and familial status, including the concept of Life Partnership, defined as "A long-term committed relationship between two unmarried [adult] individuals of the same gender" who have some connection with the city (residence, working there, own real property there) and who share at least one residence with each other [R3.5].

On 12 July 2006, Easton City Council adopted an ordinance that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in employment, housing and the use of public accommodations [R3.4].

In September 2002, New Hope became the first borough in the state to pass a law protecting gays from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations [R3.3].

In June 2002, the Philadelphia City Council added on May 16th "gender identity" (defined to include appearance, behavior, and physical characteristics) to its Fair Practices Ordinance, prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations [R3.2].

In April 2002, the Allentown Human Relations ordinance protects people from bias because of sexual orientation or gender identity [R3.1].

A petition could put the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot, which may result in the law would be overturned.


Courts & Tribunals

On 23 June 2010, a US federal court jury ruled that Philadelphia can't evict a Boy Scouts group for refusing to admit gay people [R4.2].

In 2001, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit, ruling that Congress never intended to protect people from on-the-job harassment over sexual orientation when it drafted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 [R4.1].

R1.4 TheAdvocate: Still Legal to Discriminate, Venue Rejects Lesbian Wedding 11 JUL 14
R1.3 Edge on the Net: 100 Pa. Lawmakers Introduce 2 Sweeping Nondiscrimination LGBT Bills 08 MAY 13
R1.2 The Morning Call: Commission Wants Gays Covered by State Anti-discrimination Laws 29 OCT 02
R1.1 Bloomington Herald-Times: State Adds Gays to Policy on Job Discrimination 07 AUG 01
Counties & Boroughs
R2.2 Equality Pennsylvanie: Equality Pennsylvania Celebrates Passage of State's Milestone 25th Non-Discrimination Ordinance PDF 182.18kb, 29 NOV 11
R2.1 Gay People's Chronicle: Erie County Rights Ordinance Passes 01 MAR 02
Cities & Towns
L3.9 Bill No. 130224 PDF 92.04kb, 13 MAY 13
R3.8 The Republic: Mayor signs LGBT rights legislation, wants Philadelphia to be 'most LGBT-friendly' in world 09 MAY 13
R3.7 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Township Adopts Rights Law; TV Station Gets Prurient 09 DEC 11
R3.6 The Morning Call: Bethlehem passes anti-discrimination law 21 JUN 11
R3.5 Lesbian/Gay Law Notes: Pennsylvania – Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination signed into law PDF 446.78kb, 04 APR 11
R3.4 City of Easton: Ch 79 Human Relations Commission; Discrimination (Accessed 23 JUN 11)
R3.3 Philadelphia Inquirer: New Hope Enacts Widely Watched Gay-rights Bill 11 SEP 02
R3.2 GenderPAC National News: "GPAC Commends Philadelphia, Dallas for Gender Rights Bills" 25 JUN 02
Philadelphia Inquirer: Council Passes Bill Banning Bias on Gender Identity 17 MAY 02
R3.1 The Morning Call: City Protects Gays, Gender 04 APR 02
Courts & Tribunals
R4.2 Boy Scouts win case over "no gays" stance 24 JUN 10
R4.1 9th Circuit Rules Sex Orientation Not Grounds for Suit 02 APR 01
Estates, Inheritance, Property, Succession Legislation/Cases/References

Courts & Tribunals

On 26 January 2015, Justices Ford Elliott, Shogan and Musmanno in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, upheld the trial court's order and judgment that found the agreement executed between Cynthia Clifton and Joanne Bruscemi was unambiguous as to the disposition of real property upon the termination of their relationship and ruled that the reason one woman moved out was irrelevant [C1.12], [R1.11].

On 10 June 2014, it was reported that in light of the ruling recognizing same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, the state would seek to have dismissed as moot the petition challenging its attempt to collect inheritance tax from Barbara Baus, a Northampton County woman whose wife Catherine C Burgi-Rios died of leukemia in 2012. A hearing is scheduled Friday [R1.10].

On 25 October 2013, Barbara Baus filed suit seeking equal treatment under Pennsylvania's inheritance tax law following the death of Catherine ("Cathy") Burgi-Rios whom she married in Connecticut on 29 April 2011. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue stated her marriage is “not valid in Pennsylvania” and assessed taxes due under the rate that applies to legal strangers, which is 15% [C1.9], [R1.8].

On 29 July 2013, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in a 12-page unsigned decision (of Jones, II, J) that Jean Tobits is entitled to survivor's benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, following the death of her spouse, Sarah Ellyn Farley, who died of cancer in 2010. The couple were married in Canada in 2006 [C1.7], [R1.6].

On 10 May 2012, Judge McGinley for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed (3-0) the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County that sustained the Notice of Inheritance Tax Appraisement, Allowance or Disallowance of Deductions and Assessment of Tax issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (Revenue), Department of Individual Taxes, Inheritance Tax Division, imposing inheritance tax of 15% on the Estate of Sharon Warnock and disallowing the family exemption of $3,500 [C1.5].

In November 2011, in the case of Cozen O'Connor PC v. Jennifer J Tobits and David M Farley and Joan F Farley, the parents Farley were seeking the proceeds of deceased lawyer Sarah Ellyn Farley's profit-sharing plan in priority to Jennifer J Tobits, her surviving spouse/life partner. The couple's marriage in Canada is not recognised in Pennsylvania [C1.2-4], [R1.1].

C1.12 Opinion: Cynthia Clifton v. Joanne Bruscemi Nos. 76 WDA 2014, 107 WDA 2014 PDF 95.70kb, 26 JAN 15
R1.11 TheLegalIntelligencer (Registration): Contract in Same-Sex Couple's Split Controls, Superior Court Rules 02 FEB 15
R1.10 TheMorningCall: State drops bid for inheritance tax from same-sex widow 10 JUN 14
C1.9 Petition: In Re: Estate of Burgi-Rios No. 1310 of 2012 PDF 1008.58kb, 28 OCT 13
R1.8 Jerner & Palmer: In Re: Estate of Burgi-Rios 25 OCT 13
C1.7 Memorandum of Decision: Cozen O'Connor PC v. Jennifer J Tobits No. 11-0045 PDF 233.9kb, 29 JUL 13
R1.6 Washington Blade: Court rules lesbian widow must receive survivor’s benefits 29 JUL 13
C1.5 Opinion: Marie Himmelberger, Executrix of the Estate of Sharon Warnock, Appellant v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Revenue, Bureau of Individual Taxes, Inheritance Tax Division No. 1453 CD 2011, 10 MAY 12
C1.4 Jennifer Tobit's Opposition to Plaintiff Cozen O'Connor, PC's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings PDF 348.50kb, 22 SEP 11
C1.3 Answer, Counterclaim, Crossclaim PDF 31.78kb, 01 AUG 11
C1.2 Defendant Jennifer J Tobits' Answer, Affirmative Defense, Counterclaim and Cross-claims to Interpleader First Amended Complaint PDF 62.11kb, 08 JAN 11
R1.1 US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania: Cozen O'Connor PC v. Jennifer J Tobits and David M Farley and Joan F Farley Case No. 2:11-cv-45

GayLawNet®™ "Exclusive" Sponsorship of this page IS available
Gender Identity, Intersex,
Transgender, Transexual



On 26 August 2010, the Department of Transportation announced trans-identified drivers can request the identification change as long as they are living full-time in the new gender and can back it up with verification from a licensed medical or psychological caregiver – no surgery required. Previously, the policy allowed for a gender change on the licenses only if the driver could present proof of sex-reassignment surgery [R1.3].

On 28 July 2003, Governor Rendell issued an executive order protecting transgendered people from employment discrimination in state government [R1.2].

The order applies only to the 80,000 employees in the governor's cabinet agencies and bans discrimination based on "gender identity or expression," which means people whose sense of their sexual identity differs from their gender. It can include cross-dressers, people with sex-change operations, masculine women and effeminate men [R1.2].

The order does not affect public institutions outside the governor's direct control, such as colleges and school districts [R1.2].

On 03 December 2002, the hate crimes law was amended to include sexual orientation or gender identity [R1.1].


County, Borough

On 10 September 2002, New Hope Borough Council reportedly approved a law banning discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and "gender identity" [R2.1].


Cities & Towns

On 08 May 2013, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A Decker signed Bill No. 130224 into law [L3.6]. See below [R3.5].

On 21 March 2013, City Councilman Jim Kenney reintroduced a Bill (No. 130224) to amend Philadeplphia's Fair Practices Ordinance, which enforces the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law, to specifically prohibit employers from failing to permit employees to dress in accordance with their gender identity and other transgender-inclusive provisions. A hearing on the bill was expected in April [R3.5].

On 08 December 2011, the municipal commission of Susquehanna Township, adopted an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations [R3.4].

In April 2002, an Allentown ordinance passed protecting homosexuals and transgendered people from employment and housing discrimination [R3.3], however the city ordinance was being challenged [R3.2].

On 16 May 2002, Philadelphia City Council approved a bill banning discrimination on the basis of "gender identity" [R3.1].


Universities & Colleges

In April 2010, the University of Pennsylvania approved health insurance coverage up to $ 50,000 for transgender students' gender reassignment surgeries, psychotherapy, and hormone treatments, beginning in the fall [R4.1].


Courts & Tribunals

On 02 April 2015, US District Judge Kim Gibson ruled that f2m transgender Seamus Johnston has no standing because, although he considers himself a man, he's a woman by birth and didn't undergo a sex change or otherwise take steps to officially change his gender, entitling the University of Pittsburgh to refuse to let him use the men's locker rooms and bathrooms at the Johnstown campus [C5.5], [R5.4].

On 17 January 2014, Judge Bernard McGinely of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania struck down the strict photo-identification requirement that would have disenfranchised over 5,000 transgender Pennsylvanians, as well as hundreds of thousands of low-income and elderly people with a disproportionate impact on Pennsylvanians of color [C5.3], [R5.2].

On 21 November 2002, Bedford County Judge Thomas Ling ruled that he did not have the authority to change the sex listed on the birth certificate of a man who had a sex-change operation last year [R5.1].

Tiffany Palmer, legal director at The Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Philadelphia that a change of gender can be addressed administratively in these circumstances through the Pennsylvania Department of Vital Statistics, which was preferable to using the Court.

R1.3 The Advocate: Trans Changes for Pennsylvania Driver's Licenses 26 AUG 10
R1.2 Philadelphia Inquirer: Rendell broadens protection against gender-identity bias 29 JUL 03
R1.1 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Passes Pro-gay Hate-crimes Bill 04 DEC 02
County, Borough
R2.1 Philadelphia Inquirer: New Hope Enacts Widely Watched Gay-rights Bill 11 SEP 02
Cities & Towns
L3.6 Bill No. 130224 PDF 92.04kb, 13 MAY 13
R3.5 SFGN: Philadelphia LGBT-Reform Bill Reintroduced with Trans Inclusion 29 MAR 13
R3.4 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Township Adopts Rights Law; TV Station Gets Prurient 09 DEC 11
R3.3 The Morning Call: City Protects Gays, Gender 04 APR 02
R3.2 Philadelphia Inquirer: Ariz. group takes on Allentown's gay-rights law 07 AUG 03
R3.1 Philadelphia Inquirer: Council Passes Bill Banning Bias on Gender Identity 17 MAY 02
Universities & Colleges
R4.1 The Advocate: Gender Reassignment Surgeries Approved at Penn 15 APR 10
Courts & Tribunals
C5.5 Memorandum Opinion: Seamus Johnston v. University of Pittsburgh et al No. 3:13-213 PDF 915.67kb, 31 MAR 15
R5.4 PittsburgPost-Gazette: Judge tosses transgender man's suit against Pitt 01 APR 15
C5.3 Memorandum Opinion: Viviette Applewhite & Ors v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania & Others 330 M.D. 2012 PDF 8.32MB, 17 JAN 14
R5.2 NGLTF: How a Transgender Person Helped Bring Down Pennsylvania’s Discriminatory Voter ID Law 17 JAN 14
R5.1 Associated Press: Judge Won't Change Birth Certificate 22 NOV 02
Hate Crimes Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [VIOLENCE]


On 23 July 2008, the 2002 changes to the hate crimes law were overturned by the Supreme Court. See 2. Courts & Tribunals: [R2.1].

In 2002, the hate crimes law in Pennsylvania included sexual orientation or gender identity [L1.2], [R1.2] adding "actual or perceived [...] sexual orientation, and gender or gender identity [...]" to the state's Ethnic Intimidation Law. The new measure also added people with mental or physical disabilities [L1.2].


The offense of ethnic intimidation was committed if someone used "malicious intention" in the act of crimes such as verbal harassment or property destruction. The new bill added to the scope of ethnic intimidation the characteristics of ancestry, gender or gender identity, mental or physical disabilities, and sexual orientation. The bill also changed "race" to "actual or perceived race" [R1.1].

Characteristics previously included were race, color, religion, and national origin [R1.1].


Cities & Towns

On 30 October 2014, Philadelphia City Council unanimously approved a bill amending Title 10 of The Philadelphia Code adding sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the city's list of hate crimes [R2.1].


Courts & Tribunals

On 23 July 2008, the Supreme Court struck down changes to the state's hate-crimes law that added sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, gender, and mental and physical disability to the list of protected characteristics [R3.1].

According to Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, the supreme court stripped out the additional protections because of the way the measure was passed – as an alteration of an agricultural bill – not because of its content [R3.1].

1. State
L1.2 Ethnic Intimidation Act § 2710
R1.2 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Passes Pro-gay Hate-crimes Bill 04 DEC 02
R1.1 GenderPAC National News: "PA Adopts Inclusive Hate Crimes Bill" 18 DEC 02
2. Cities & Towns
R2.1 OnTop: Philadelphia Adds Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity To List Of Hate Crimes 30 OCT 14
Courts & Tribunals
R3.1 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Court Strips Down Hate-Crimes Law 26-28 JUL 08
Health, Medical Legislation/Cases/References

Cities & Towns

On 08 May 2013, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A Decker signed Bill No. 130224 into law. The Ordinance offers health protections for gay families and decision-making rights to same-sex couples [L1.1].


Courts & Tribunals

On 25 July 2013, a Philadelphia County Judge was reported to have dismissed a loss of consortium claim in the medical malpractice case of (Tammy and Jesseca) Wolf v. Associates of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery [R2.1].

L1.1 Bill No. 130224 PDF 92.04kb, 13 MAY 13
R2.1 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Same-sex pair's loss of consortium claim denied 29 JUL 13
HIV Aids Legislation/Cases/References

Courts & Tribunals

On 12 September 2012, Milton Hershey School, Hershey agreed to pay $700,000 in damages and $15,000 civil penalty in a settlement agreement on a claim for refusing admission to a 14-year-old boy because he is HIV-positive [D1.5], [C1.4], [R1.3].

In 2003, an HIV-positive man in need of a liver transplant was wrongly denied coverage under the state's Medicaid program, an administrative law judge ruled [R1.2].

In November 1998, the Supreme Court turned down an appeal by a transsexual who said a Pennsylvania judge banished him for life from his hometown after he tested positive for the AIDS virus [R1.1].

D1.5 DOJ ADA: Settlement Agreement 12 SEP 12
C1.4 Case: Mother Smith v. Milton Hershey School, Civil Action No. 11-cv-7391-CDJ (E.D. Pa.) First Amended Complaint PDF 401.71kb, 19 JAN 01
R1.3 GayStarNews: School who refused HIV teen a place forced to pay out 14 SEP 12
R1.2 Associated Press: Judge Rules for HIV Patient in Transplant 10 DEC 03
R1.1 Daily News/Associated Press: Appeal Denied for HIV Infected Man 16 NOV 98
Homosexuality, Sodomy Legislation/Cases/References

Courts & Tribunals

On 01 May 2004, the United Methodist Judicial Council said church law clearly teaches that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching [R1.1]

R1.1 Associated Press: Methodist Court Rules on Homosexuality 01 MAY 04
Marriage Legislation/Cases/References


In 1996, legislation was amended by the addition of -

Title 23. Domestic Relations Code. Chapter 17. Miscellaneous Provisions Relating to Marriage

§ 1704. Marriage between persons of the same sex.

It is hereby declared to be the strong and longstanding public policy of this Commonwealth that marriage shall be between one man and one woman. A marriage between persons of the same sex which was entered into in another state or foreign jurisdiction, even if valid where entered into, shall be void in this Commonwealth [L1.4].

Now see: 3. Courts & Tribunals below.

On 03 October 2013, Representative Simms introduced HB1686 to the House. The Bill would amend Title 23 (Domestic Relations) defining marriage as a "civil contract between two people who enter into matrimony".

On 11 July 2013, Attorney General Kathleen Kane indicated she would not defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's version of DOMA, believing it to be wholly unconstitutional [R1.3]. See [C2.3], [R2.2] below.

On 16 March 2010, the Senate judiciary committee tabled senate bill 707 by an 8–6 bipartisan vote, thereby stalling the advance of the bill that would constitutionally ban same-sex marriage [R1.2].

In June 2009, the Senate was reportedly soon be considering opposing pieces of legislation regarding same-sex marriage, Sen. Daylin Leach was introducing the state’s first bill to recognize same-sex marriage, whilst Sen. John Eichelberger was preparing to introduce a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and consequently prevent courts from from legalizing such unions [R1.1].



On 23 July 2013, Montgomery County Register of Wills D Bruce Hanes agreed to issue a marriage license to two women, despite state law against same-sex marriage. The application was withdrawn so as not to jeopardise a pending lawsuit challenging the state law [R2.1].

Now see: 3. Courts & Tribunals below at [C3.6-3.10], [R3.5].


Courts & Tribunals

On 09 July 2014, it was reported that Justice Samuel Alito denied without comment a request to halt same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania [R3.21].

On 20 May 2014, US District Judge John E Jones III ruled Pennsylvania's statutory same-sex marriage ban violates the principles of equal protection and is therefore unconstitutional. There was no stay discussed in the opinion [C3.20], [C3.19], [R3.18].

On 14 March 2014, Federal Judge Mary A McLaughlin in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ordered that oral argument on the pending motions to dismiss and motion for summary judgment in the “Cara Palladino v. Thomas W Corbett” marriage equality case is scheduled for 28 May [C3.17], [R3.16].

On 22 November 2013, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III set 09 June as the trial date for the Whitewood v. Wolf lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's gay-marriage ban after rejecting a request to delay the proceeding. Judge Jones also set a timetable for pre-trial motions and other paperwork to be filed before the trial [R3.15].

On 15 November 2013, Judge John E. Jones III in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania denied motions to dismiss the so-called Whitewood v, Wolf suit that were lodged by Bucks County Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans Court Donald Petrille, state Health Secretary Michael Wolf, and state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser. The Court will hold a case management conference scheduled for 22 November 2013 [C3.14], [R3.13].

On 01 October 2013, Montgomery County solicitor Ray McGarry filed an appeal on behalf of D. Bruce Hames, against the ruling from Commonwealth Court ordering the county to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples [R3.12].

On 26 September 2013, a lawsuit was filed in the in US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker challenging the constitutionality of the state law that declares a same-sex marriage from another state "void". The couple were married in Massachusetts in 2005 [C3.11], [R3.10].

On 12 September 2013, President Judge Dan Pelligrini ordered Montgomery Clerk Dan Hanes to “cease and desist from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex applicants” citing three issues ­ jurisdiction, standing and the ability to raise a constitutional argument [C3.9], [R3.8]. The County is expected to lodge an appeal [R3.7].

On 20 August 2013, the Commonwealth Court scheduled 04 September for hearing oral arguments on the governor's attempt to stop a county outside Philadelphia from issuing same-sex marriage licenses [C3.6], [R3.5].

On 09 July 2013, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a complaint in the US District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages [C3.4], [R3.3]. The Commonwealth Court scheduled oral arguments for 04 September in Harrisburg [R3.2].

In March 2010, Berks County Judge Scott Lash said he could not grant a divorce to Carole Ann Kern and Robin Lynn Taney who married last year in Massachusetts, because their marriage is not recognized under Pennsylvania law [R3.1].

L1.4 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Title 23. Domestic Relations. Part II. Marriage. § 1704.
R1.3 New York Times: Move for Gay Marriage Gets a Lift in Pennsylvania 11 JUL 13
R1.2 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Senators Vote Down Antigay Marriage Bill 16 MAR 10
R1.1 The Advocate: Dueling Marriage Laws in Pa. 04 JUN 09
R2.1 The Independent: Pennsylvania county agrees to same-sex marriage licenses 23 JUL 13
Courts & Tribunals
R3.21 EqualityOnTrial: Justice Alito declines to halt same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania 09 JUL 14
C3.20 Order: Deb Whitewood, et at., v. Michael Wolf No 1:13-cv-01861-JEJ PDF 125.42kb, 20 MAY 14
C3.19 Memorandum Opinion: Deb Whitewood, et at., v. Michael Wolf No 1:13-cv-01861-JEJ PDF 332.04kb, 20 MAY 14
R3.18 EqualityOnTrial: Federal judge strikes down Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban 20 MAY 14
C3.17 Order: Cara Palladino et. al. v. Thomas W Corbett No. 13-5641 PDF 49.99kb, 14 MAR 14
R3.16 EqualityOnTrial: Federal district court to hear oral arguments in Pennsylvania marriage equality case on May 28 18 MAR 14
R3.15 The Republic: Judge schedules June 9 trial on federal challenge to Pa.'s gay marriage ban 22 NOV 13
C3.14 Memorandum and Order: Deb Whitewood, et. al. v. Michael Wolf PDF 41.34kb, 15 NOV 13
R3.13 PennLive: Federal lawsuit against Pa. gay marriage ban survives first legal challenge 15 NOV 13
R3.12 TimesHerald: Montgomery County Register of Wills appeals court decision on same-sex marriage licenses 01 OCT 13
C3.11 Complaint: Cara Palladino & Isabelle Barker v. Thomas W Corbett & Anor No. 2:13-cv-05641-MAM PDF 939.95kb, 26 SEP 13
R3.10 Equality Forum: Same-Sex Marriage Case Filed in Federal Court 26 SEP 13
C3.9 Memorandum Opinion: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. D Bruce Hanes No. 379 M.D. 2013 PDF 1.14MB, 12 SEP 12
R3.8 The Legal Intelligencer: Judge Orders Montco Clerk to Stop Same-Sex Marriages 12 SEP 13
R3.7 SFGN: County To Appeal PA Judge’s Gay Marriage License Halt 17 SEP 13
C3.6 Order: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health v. D Bruce Hanes No. 379 M.D. 2013 PDF 91.62kb, 20 AUG 13
R3.5 SFGN: Pennsylvania Court to Hear Gay Marriage Arguments on September 4 20 AUG 13
R3.4 SFGN: Pennsylvania Court to Hear Gay Marriage Arguments on September 4 20 AUG 13
C3.3 Complaint: Whitewood et al v. Corbdett et al No. 13-cv-1861 PDF 2.27MB, 09 JUL 13
R3.2 ACLU of PA: ACLU-PA, ACLU, and Hangley Aronchick Seek Freedom to Marry for Pennsylvania Couples 09 JUL 13
R3.1 Boston Herald: Pennsylvania judge refuses to grant same-sex divorce after Massachusetts marriage 26 MAR 10
Parenting, Adoption, Fostering Legislation/Cases/References


Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. Title 23. Domestic Relations. Part III Adoption

§ 2312: Any individual may become an adopting parent [L1.1].

Single lesbians and gay men as well as lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in same-sex relationships may adopt a child


Courts & Tribunals

In 2002, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the state Superior Court two years before that barred a homosexual individual who wanted to adopt his or her partner's child [R2.6].

However, the law confusingly allowed a homosexual couple to legally adopt a child.

Now, people seeking to adopt as second parents must apply to their county courts for approval. After an evidentiary hearing, a judge must make a determination on whether adoption is in the best interest of the child.

The requirements for second-parent adoption vary from county to county. Some counties require a full home study while others do not [R2.5].


In November 2000, the Pennsylvania superior court ruled that gays and lesbians in the state have no standing to adopt their partners’ children [R2.4].

In April 2000, all nine state Superior Court judges will hear appeals from Erie and Lancaster counties on whether same-sex partners can be named as adoptive parents [R2.3].

In June 1999, Judge Shad Connelly denied the granting of a second parent adoption of two children to an Erie man, simply because he and his partner were gay [R2.2].

In February 1999, a Pennsylvania appellate court was asked to rule for the first time on this question: Should the homosexual partner of a biological parent be permitted to adopt the children of that parent? [R2.1].

L1.1 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Title 23. Domestic Relations, Part III Adoption, Chapters 21, § 2312
Courts & Tribunals
R2.6 Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania Court Ends a Ban on Gay Adoption 21 AUG 02
R2.5 Tiffany L Palmer: Jerner & Palmer, P.C. 26 AUG 08
R2.4 The Advocate: Pennsylvania Court Says Gays Can’t Adopt Partners’ Children 11-13 NOV 00
R2.3 Associated Press: Superior Court To Hear Combined Appeals On Gay Adoption 07 APR 00
R2.2 Erie Times News: Second-Parent Adoption Appeal 23 JUL 99
Erie Gay News: Gay Man Denied Second-parent Adoption 25 JUN 99
R2.1 Phildephia Inquirer: Adoption Court to Rule on Same-Sex Parents 16 FEB 99
Privacy Legislation/Cases/References

Courts & Tribunals

On 18 October 2002, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia declared that people have a constitutional right to protect the privacy of their sexual orientation [R1.2].

The 3rd Circuit's ruling carries legal authority in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands, the areas covered by the Court [R1.1].

R1.2 The Morning Call: New Trial Stands for Minersville Police 26 OCT 03
R1.1 ILGA: Minersville Case Victory for Gays 11 NOV 01
Taxation Legislation/Cases/References
Violence: Bullying, Domestic Violence, Harassment, Vilification Legislation/Cases/References

Courts & Tribunals

On 29 March 2001, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit, ruling that Congress never intended to protect people from on-the-job harassment over sexual orientation when it drafted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 [R1.1].

R1.1 9th Circuit Rules Sex Orientation Not Grounds for Suit 02 APR 01

GayLawNet®™ "Exclusive" Sponsorship of this page IS available