A guide to today's marriage equality ruling in Pennsylvania

Gay Marriage - With This Ring
If the call for equality is ordered without a stay, same-sex couples can request a marriage license immediately.

Today Federal District Judge John E. Jones III will rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. His ruling is expected sometime this afternoon. He can rule to allow equality in two ways. Judge Jones can simply order the state to issues license immediately, or accept a requested stay on his order by the state if the state wishes to appeal his ruling to a higher court.

The state may request, but the judge has the right to refuse a stay even if the state appeals. If he refuses a stay during the appeal, the state will have to issue licenses since federal law trumps state law.

If the call for equality is ordered without a stay, same-sex couples can request a marriage license immediately. In the state of Pennsylvania, there is a three-day waiting period once you fill out the application. Philadelphia Register of Wills Ron Donatucci's office is at present prepared and will stay open to accommodate the couples this evening if necessary.  

The reality is that this is happening in almost every state in the union since there is no national policy or law. 18 states in the country, including District of Columbia, allow same-sex marriage. Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast that has yet to support same-sex marriage.  

The issue will not be completely settled on a national level until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a full ruling on marriage equality.  

Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, has been recognized by the National Newspaper Association, Pennsylvania News-media Association, Suburban Newspapers of America and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. He can be reached via facebook or twitter.