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A closely watched case that challenges the ordinance granting certain benefits to registered same-sex “life partners” of city employees tops the list of cases the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear during oral arguments in City Hall this week. In Devlin v. City of Philadelphia, which will be argued today, a group of Philadelphia taxpayers led by William Devlin, head of a socially conservative group called the Urban Family Council, has contended that the life-partners ordinance constitutes an impermissible attempt to legislate in the area of marriage. In 2002, the Commonwealth Court agreed with Devlin. The city of Philadelphia appealed. The measure was enacted about five years ago during the Rendell administration. In addition to benefits for life partners, it exempts registered couples from the city tax on real estate transfers. During oral arguments, the parties are expected to address whether the exemption is irrational or arbitrary under the Uniformity Clause of the state Constitution. The Commonwealth Court said the exemption “promotes a lack of uniformity in the taxation area.” Barbara W. Mather of Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia will present arguments for the appellant, the city. Dennis M. Abrams of Lowenthal & Abrams in Bala Cynwyd will present arguments for the appellees. The Interfaith Working Group Christian Association, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference have filed amicus briefs in the case. Oral arguments will be in Courtroom 456 on the fourth floor of City Hall Tuesday through Thursday, starting at 9:30 a.m. each day. The justices hear individual arguments in order according to their “daily list number.”

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