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A gay man has won legal recognition of his common-law marriage to his partner, who died two months before the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court on Monday overturned Beaver County President Judge John D. McBride’s ruling that Michael Hunter and Stephen Carter were never legally married. Carter was killed in a 2013 motorcycle accident shortly before the high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Hunter argued in his appeal that he and Carter, who had been in a relationship since 1996, were married by common law prior to the state legislature’s abolishment of common-law marriage in 2005.

The petition was not opposed by any government agencies.

The Beaver County judge had ruled that even if they were together before the 2005 abolishment, same-sex couples in Pennsylvania did not have the right to marry until 2014. Using the old definition, McBride denied Hunter’s petition to have his marriage recognized.

However, Superior Court Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton wrote in the court’s opinion that both a Pennsylvania federal court ruling legalizing gay marriage in the state in 2014 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges changed everything. Moulton said McBride based his ruling on an unconstitutional law.

“Same-sex couples have precisely the same capacity to enter marriage contracts as do opposite-sex couples, and a court today may not rely on the now invalidated provisions of the marriage law to deny that constitutional reality,” Moulton said.

Hunter was represented by Pittsburgh lawyer Sam Hens-Greco.

“They lived almost 17 years together as a married couple … they just never got their wedding ceremony,” Hens-Greco said.

Retroactively applying common-law marriage has occurred in Pennsylvania before. That was the case in 2015 for a same-sex couple in Bucks County where one partner died before the ban on common-law marriages.

Nearly three years ago, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, joining a list of states to do so prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Obergefell case.

“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 said in his 39-page opinion in Whitewood v. Wolf.

Of marriage laws like Pennsylvania’s, which replicated DOMA’s definition as being one man and one woman, Jones said, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

A gay man has won legal recognition of his common-law marriage to his partner, who died two months before the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court on Monday overturned Beaver County President Judge John D. McBride’s ruling that Michael Hunter and Stephen Carter were never legally married. Carter was killed in a 2013 motorcycle accident shortly before the high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Hunter argued in his appeal that he and Carter, who had been in a relationship since 1996, were married by common law prior to the state legislature’s abolishment of common-law marriage in 2005.

The petition was not opposed by any government agencies.

The Beaver County judge had ruled that even if they were together before the 2005 abolishment, same-sex couples in Pennsylvania did not have the right to marry until 2014. Using the old definition, McBride denied Hunter’s petition to have his marriage recognized.

However, Superior Court Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton wrote in the court’s opinion that both a Pennsylvania federal court ruling legalizing gay marriage in the state in 2014 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges changed everything. Moulton said McBride based his ruling on an unconstitutional law.

“Same-sex couples have precisely the same capacity to enter marriage contracts as do opposite-sex couples, and a court today may not rely on the now invalidated provisions of the marriage law to deny that constitutional reality,” Moulton said.

Hunter was represented by Pittsburgh lawyer Sam Hens-Greco.

“They lived almost 17 years together as a married couple … they just never got their wedding ceremony,” Hens-Greco said.

Retroactively applying common-law marriage has occurred in Pennsylvania before. That was the case in 2015 for a same-sex couple in Bucks County where one partner died before the ban on common-law marriages.

Nearly three years ago, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, joining a list of states to do so prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Obergefell case.

“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 said in his 39-page opinion in Whitewood v. Wolf.

Of marriage laws like Pennsylvania’s, which replicated DOMA’s definition as being one man and one woman, Jones said, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”