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Pa. county clerk not abandoning fight to appeal same-sex marriage ruling

Pa. county clerk not abandoning fight to appeal same-sex marriage ruling

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — A Pennsylvania county official seeking to overturn a federal judge’s ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state, says she’s not abandoning her fight, even after a U.S. Supreme Court justice rejected her bid to put the marriages on hold while she tries to get standing in a legal case to stop them permanently.

Theresa Santai-Gaffney
Theresa Santai-Gaffney

“Traditional families are the backbone of this country,” says Theresa Santai-Gaffney, the Register of Wills and Orphans’ Court Clerk for Schuylkill County, Pa., who has sought to intervene and appeal a federal judge’s May 20 ruling striking down Pennsylvania’s same marriage ban.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration was defending the law, but declined to appeal the ruling, allowing for Pennsylvania to become the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Santai-Gaffney has sought to step in and appeal the ruling in place of the state, and has taken her fight to the U.S. Supreme Court after being rebuffed by the federal judge who struck down the ban, and by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

“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,” said U.S. District Judge Jone E. Jones, in rejecting her initial request last month.

And even though U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito also rejected her bid to stop the marriages, Santai-Gaffney told the Republican-Herald on Thursday that she’s not abandoning her fight, and plans to discuss the next steps with her lawyers, who are handling the case without charge.

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“We’re waiting to discuss our strategy” until the lead lawyer, Randall L. Wenger of the Independence Law Center in Harrisburg, returns from vacation, she said.

Santai-Gaffney said she has no plans to resign and, if she is unsuccessful in her appeals, she would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule in an appeal brought by gay marriage opponents challenging a ruling that overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The high court ruled that opponents did not have the authority to defend the ban after state officials refused to do so.

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