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Pa. court clerk defends issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Monday, December 2, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A suburban Philadelphia court clerk who defied Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage by signing licenses for scores of gay couples urged the state’s highest court Monday to overturn an order that required him to stop.

Matt Rourke, APD. Bruce Hanes

Matt Rourke, AP
D. Bruce Hanes

Lawyers for D. Bruce Hanes, clerk of the Montgomery County Orphan’s Court, filed a brief in his appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The state Health Department took Hanes to court for violating the law after he began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in July. In September, Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ordered him to stop signing the licenses. By then, Hanes had signed 174 licenses.

Hanes says the court order forced him to violate his oath by complying with a law he regards as unconstitutional. He cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that the federal government could not deny benefits to married same-sex couples who live in states that allow same-sex marriage, as well as state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s subsequent refusal to defend the 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.

James Schultz, Gov. Tom Corbett’s general counsel, had no immediate comment on the filing, said Schultz’s spokesman, Joshua Maus.

Schultz has said 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.

Sixteen states, including every northeastern state, except Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.

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, inclu ding a federal lawsuit on the constitutionality of the law that is slated to go to trial June 9 in Harrisburg.

The lawsuit against state officials 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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13 more reader comments:

  1. One of the good guys!

    Posted on Monday, December 2, 2013 at 10:32pm
  2. Proud to be in the county next to his!!

    Posted on Monday, December 2, 2013 at 10:34pm
  3. good man there. thnk uu.

    Posted on Monday, December 2, 2013 at 10:41pm
  4. Good for him! He is one of the Great One’s.

    Posted on Monday, December 2, 2013 at 10:42pm
  5. This has nothing to do with this post, but I would like to say that if Q can be added to LGBT, then I think A should also be added, for the 1% of the world that is asexual

    Posted on Monday, December 2, 2013 at 11:00pm
  6. praise the lord

    Posted on Monday, December 2, 2013 at 11:37pm
  7. He’s with the right side of history.

    Posted on Monday, December 2, 2013 at 11:52pm
  8. Hi everyone! I want my LGBT community to be informed of this awesome opportunity which Im fortunate to be a part of; please take a minute to check this out and than click on #2. Feel free to request me as a friend and or send me an email on how to join our international team THank you in advance for taking the time to do this.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 12:57am
  9. Good guy indeed. Thank you court clerk – Live and let live.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 2:47am
  10. I love this guy!* :)

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 5:05am
  11. Thank you for your courage, you are appreciated!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 5:41am
  12. A good man.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 11:05am
  13. Thank you Tara. A real good point. You ‘re on ! :)

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 1:24pm