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Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania's Ban On Gay Marriage

A federal judge struck down Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, saying it violated the Constitution's Equal Protection clause.

The ruling comes a day after another federal judge used similar reasoning to strike down Oregon's ban on gay marriage.

At this point, Pennsylvania becomes the ninth state to have its ban on gay marriage struck down by a federal judge. Ultimately, this issue will likely be decided by the Supreme Court, which will either pick one case or take them on in bulk.

Pennsylvania passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 1996.

The AP reports that today's ruling by U.S. District Judge John Jones III makes "same-sex matrimony legal across the Northeast."

In his opinion, Jones wrote that tradition does not trump the Constitution.

"Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional," Jones wrote. "Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of 'separate but equal.'"

The AP also notes that in this case, the state attorney general and the governor are on different sides of the issue.

Gov. Tom Corbett said states have the right to determine the definition of marriage. Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said in a statement that today's ruling brought justice to Pennsylvanians.

"When state-sponsored inequality exists, citizens are deprived of the full protections that the Constitution guarantees," Kane said. "Our Commonwealth progressed today and so have the hopes and dreams of many who suffer from inequality."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.