University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Himmelberger v. Pennsylvania PB-PA-0017
Docket / Court 1453 CD 2011 ( State Court )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Case Summary
On August 2, 2011, the plaintiff, a beneficiary of the estate of her same-sex partner, filed suit in the Common Pleas Court of Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. The plaintiff, represented by a private law firm, argued that the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. ... read more >
On August 2, 2011, the plaintiff, a beneficiary of the estate of her same-sex partner, filed suit in the Common Pleas Court of Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. The plaintiff, represented by a private law firm, argued that the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution required Pennsylvania to recognize her New Jersey civil union with respect to taxation of same-sex couples.

The plaintiff and her partner entered into a civil union in New Jersey on March 8, 2007. At the time, they were residents of New Jersey. Plaintiff's partner died on February 25, 2010 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, where she was then domiciled. She left much of her estate to the plaintiff.

On August 31, 2010, the plaintiff filed an inheritance tax return with the state. On February 7, 2011, the state sent the plaintiff a notice denying a deduction under the family exemption and claiming a sum of $91,000 was due as additional tax. The defendants argued that a New Jersey civil union was equivalent to a marriage between same-sex couples, which was not recognized under Pennsylvania state law. Section 1704 of Pennsylvania's Marriage Law states that it is "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."

On September 28, 2011, the Common Pleas Court (Judge Peter W. Schmehl) found "no legitimate reason to apply New Jersey law or treat [plaintiff] any differently than any other member of the non-familial class of survivor." The plaintiff filed an appeal with the Commonwealth Court on August 15, 2011. On May 10, 2012, the court (Judge Bernard McGinley) affirmed the decision of the Common Pleas Court. The case was closed on September 21, 2012.

Priyah Kaul - 12/01/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Full faith and credit
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
Sexual orientatation
General
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Marriage
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Plaintiff Description Beneficiary of estate of same-sex partner.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Links William G. v. Pataki
http://www.bazelon.org/william-g-v-pataki/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Disability Rights New Jersey v. Velez
http://www.bazelon.org/drnj-v-velez/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Williams v. Quinn
http://www.bazelon.org/williams-v-quinn/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  United States of America v. Commonwealth of Virginia
http://www.bazelon.org/u-s-v-virginia/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  United States of America v. North Carolina
http://www.bazelon.org/u-s-v-north-carolina/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  U.S. v. Georgia
http://www.bazelon.org/u-s-v-georgia/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  O'Toole v. Cuomo [Formerly DAI v. Cuomo]
http://www.bazelon.org/otoole-v-cuomo/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Amanda D. v. Hassan
http://www.bazelon.org/amanda-d-v-hassan/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1453 CD 2011 (State Court of Appeals)
PB-PA-0017-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/21/2012
Source: Westlaw
General Documents
Opinion (47 A.3d 160)
PB-PA-0017-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/10/2012
Source: Westlaw
Judges McGinley, Bernard L. (State Appellate Court)
PB-PA-0017-0001 | PB-PA-0017-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Sturm, William Harold (Pennsylvania)
PB-PA-0017-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Gohsler, Thomas Jude (Pennsylvania)
PB-PA-0017-9000

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