Fishing expedition: Privacy is abused in the same-sex marriage case

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The American Civil Liberties Union, representing parties suing in federal court to overturn Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage, is complaining that the attorneys representing the commonwealth are asking for highly personal details about the plaintiffs.

It is a fair complaint. Talk about too much information.

Witold “Vic” Walczak, the legal director for the Pennsylvania ACLU, said in a letter to U.S. District Judge John E. Jones that the request is beyond the scope of what is allowed in discovery and demands irrelevant information that is very private.

Mr. Walczak wrote that the commonwealth’s attorneys seek documents showing “the natural parents” of both biological and adoptive children, whether the plaintiffs were involved in any previous marriages or relationships with a person of the opposite sex, every person with whom the plaintiffs resided going back 10 years and any health providers from whom they received medical or psychological treatment or counseling for the harm alleged in the lawsuit (even though the suit seeks no damages).

Of course, it is up to Judge Jones to decide whether such information is relevant to the case.

To us, however, it looks like harassment and bullying. No matter what their sexual orientations and identities, many people have past relationships that do not say anything about the person they eventually meet and choose as a mate. Nor does every broken heart require healing by medical professionals.

Finally, the attorneys representing the commonwealth seem to miss the point. If gay people want to marry those they love, the fundamental question is whether it is constitutional to deny them a privilege granted to other Americans who happen to be heterosexual. That is what we thought this case was about.

All else is a distraction. The commonwealth is being represented by outside counsel in this case, Lamb McErlane PC, because Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to defend the statute.

The outside firm’s tactic — which it says is customary in such cases and arises directly from the allegations made — has done the Corbett administration no favors, especially in a week the governor put forward a tolerant face by backing legislation that would outlaw housing and job discrimination against gays and lesbians.

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