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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 20 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 25
Judge rejects challenge to Pennsylvania marriage ruling
Section One
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Judge rejects challenge to Pennsylvania marriage ruling

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones ruled on June 18 that a Pennsylvania county official may not intervene to challenge his ruling that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry.

Jones initially ruled on May 20 that Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in a case brought by the ACLU on behalf of 11 couples.

Pennsylvania's Democratic Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, said before trial that she agreed the law was unconstitutional and she would not defend it. Republican Governor Tom Corbett hired outside attorneys to defend the state's marriage law, but within 24 hours of Jones's ruling he decided to drop the state's appeal.

Enter Schuykill County Registrar of Wills Theresa Santai-Gaffney. As the county official charged with issuing marriage licenses, she then petitioned Jones to be allowed to intervene in the case and appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Citing her 'deep personal disagreement' with Jones's ruling, Santai-Gaffney said she should be allowed to represent the state of Pennsylvania in the appeals process.

Jones rejected her reasoning, however.

'If the highest elected official in the commonwealth chooses to abide by our decision, it defies credulity that we would permit a single citizen to stand in for him to perfect an appeal,' he wrote.

Santai-Gaffney also claimed Jones decision made the state's marriage law and the scope of her duties unclear.

'Nothing could be further from the truth,' Jones wrote, saying the decision was clarified in a notice issued by the state Department of Health to clerks that handle marriage licenses.

'There is nothing remotely ambiguous about how Santai-Gaffney must perform her duties relative to issuing marriage licenses,' Jones said. 'At bottom, we have before us a contrived legal argument by a private citizen who seeks to accomplish what the chief executive of the commonwealth, in his wisdom, has declined to do.'

James Smith, an attorney for Santai-Gaffney, said a notice of appeal to the Third Circuit in Philadelphia was filed within an hour of Jones's ruling.

'We were prepared for this decision,' Smith told The Associated Press. 'We expect the Third Circuit to allow us to intervene. This is an important matter that deserves an appeal.'

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