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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 6 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 49
Pennsylvania clerk petitions to start issuing marriage licenses again
Section One
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Pennsylvania clerk petitions to start issuing marriage licenses again

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

D. Bruce Hanes, the Montgomery County Clerk who issued dozens of marriage licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples until a court ordered him to stop, has petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to allow him to resume issuing the licenses.

On November 2, Hanes filed an appeal of the September ruling by Judge Dan Pellegrini, finding that marriage licenses for same-sex couples violated state law. By the time Pellegrini ordered him to stop, Hanes had already issued 174 same-sex licenses.

In his appeal, Hanes says that Pellegrini's court order forced him to violate his oath of office by complying with a law he regards as unconstitutional.

He cited the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling that the federal government could not deny benefits to married same-sex couples, as well as Pennsylvania state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's subsequent refusal to defend the Pennsylvania law against a federal court challenge because she considers it unconstitutional.

Hanes also contends the Health Department lacked legal standing to take him to court and compel him to stop issuing licenses to couples he thought were entitled to them.

James Schultz, general counsel to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, would not comment on the filing, according to Associated Press.

Schultz has said in the past that the central issue in the case was whether local officials could decide which laws to uphold, based on their own legal opinions. In seeking to stop Hanes from issuing licenses to same-sex couples, the Health Department said his action could cause chaos.

Pennsylvania's marriage law was amended in 1996 to define marriage as a civil contract between 'one man and one woman.'

At least five other legal challenges to Pennsylvania's law are pending, including a federal lawsuit on the constitutionality of the law that is slated to go to trial June 9 in Harrisburg.

That lawsuit, named top state officials as defendants, was filed by civil rights lawyers on behalf of a widow, 11 couples and one of the couples' two teenage daughters.

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