The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 12, 2013

State judge orders end to same-sex marriage licenses

By Mark Scolforo
The Associated Press

— HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania judge is stopping a suburban Philadelphia court clerk from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying it was a clear violation of his legal authority.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini issued an order today that said Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes didn’t have the power to decide on his own whether the same-sex marriage ban violates the state constitution.

Hanes issued four more licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 174.

The state Health Department took him to court after he began issuing them in July. That was after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane called the Pennsylvania ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s top lawyer says the ruling resolves whether local officials have discretion to decide which laws to uphold.

General Counsel James Schultz issued a statement this afternoon, after a Commonwealth Court judge ruled for the Department of Health and against Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes.

A spokesman for Montgomery County says the decision is being reviewed and they expected to comment later in the day.

Schultz says the administration respects “the interests and dignity” of all parties in the case, but notes “we are a government of laws.” He says it’s important that all state office holders enforce laws uniformly.