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Montco Asks PA Supreme Court to Rule on Constitutionality of Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes was forced by a Commonwealth Court Judge to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses; he now wants the state Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the ban.

Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes. Credit: Nicole Foulke.
Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes. Credit: Nicole Foulke.

Attorneys for Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes filed arguments with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday, requesting that the court find the same-sex marriage ban in Pennsylvania unconstitutional, after he was forced to stop issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

In July, Hanes announced that he would issue the marriage licenses, citing the Pennsylvania and United States constitutions, which grants citizens the right to “pursue their own happiness." He issued 174 marriage licenses between late July and early September.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health sued Hanes in late July, stating that the issuance of the licenses would cause “administrative and legal chaos,” and that it was against state law.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini heard arguments in September on the case and ordered Hanes to stop issuing the licenses. 

Arguments heard included jurisdiction and standing, and if Hanes was considered a judicial officer in his role as Register of Wills; the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban was not a topic heard by the judge.

Hanes, represented by the county solicitor’s office, is now asking the Supreme Court to hear the argument of the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban.

According to Hanes, “refusing to provide such licenses to otherwise eligible couples would deny them this basic civil right to marry,” which is in violation of Hanes’ oath to uphold the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions.

In October, a state-court ruling in New Jersey legalized same-sex marriages in that state. Gov. Chris Christie said his administration would not appeal the court's ruling.  

John Teets December 03, 2013 at 04:41 PM
The same M.O. as the current admin in DC. If you can't get a law passed, change the rules, simply disobey the law, or go judge shopping to find a judge who decides based upon politics and not the law. THis unlawful conduct should have meant immediate dismissal and loss of pension. Our country is becoming more lawless by the day.

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