Case: Himmelberger v. Pennsylvania

11-01453 | Pennsylvania state trial court

Filed Date: Aug. 2, 2011

Closed Date: 2012

Clearinghouse coding complete

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. 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, 2…

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.

Summary Authors

Priyah Kaul (12/1/2014)

People


Judge(s)

McGinley, Bernard L. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Sturm, William Harold (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Gohsler, Thomas Jude (Pennsylvania)

Judge(s)

McGinley, Bernard L. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Sturm, William Harold (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Gohsler, Thomas Jude (Pennsylvania)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

11-01453

Docket

Pennsylvania state appellate court

Sept. 21, 2012

Sept. 21, 2012

Docket

11-01453

Opinion

Pennsylvania state appellate court

47 A.3d 160

May 10, 2012

May 10, 2012

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated Aug. 19, 2022, 3:01 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Pennsylvania

Case Type(s):

Public Benefits/Government Services

Special Collection(s):

Same-Sex Marriage

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 2, 2011

Closing Date: 2012

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Beneficiary of estate of same-sex partner.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Berks), State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Full faith and credit

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General:

Gay/lesbian/transgender

Marriage

Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)

Discrimination-basis:

Sex discrimination

Sexual orientatation

Affected Gender:

Female