State: Gay marriage must stop

JESSICA GLAZER / DAILY NEWS STAFF Dee Spagnuolo (left) and Sasha Ballen were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Montgomery County.
JESSICA GLAZER / DAILY NEWS STAFF Dee Spagnuolo (left) and Sasha Ballen were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Montgomery County.
Posted: August 01, 2013

THE STATE has filed a lawsuit against a Montgomery County official for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Last week, Bruce Hanes, the register of wills, began granting licenses at the county courthouse. The lawsuit, filed yesterday morning by the state Department of Health's chief counsel, asks that the Commonwealth Court immediately force Hanes to "comply with the [Pennsylvania] Marriage Law and to direct the Clerk to immediately cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples."

"Compliance with Pennsylvania law by its public officials is a mandatory obligation," the suit states. "Ours is a government of laws, not one of public officials exercising their will as they believe the law should be or will be."

Pennsylvania is one of 35 states that prohibit same-sex marriage.

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane said earlier this month that she would not defend the state against lawsuits calling into question the legality of Pennsylvania's Marriage Act.

Gov. Corbett's administration is expected to defend the state's one-man-one-woman marriage law in court following the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling that struck down several provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The chief counsel for the Office of General Counsel also sent a letter yesterday to Kane's office, stating in part, "The Attorney General's unprecedented public adjudication of the state's alleged unconstitutionality was an improper usurpation of the role of the courts, which at a minimum, causes confusion among those charged with administering the law."

The Health Department filed the suit because it processes and tracks marriage records for the state.

Hanes, who had issued 31 marriage licenses to same-sex couples through Monday, will not stop issuing licenses, according to a statement from the Montgomery County solicitor.

"While it comes as no surprise that the Corbett administration has filed an action seeking to enjoin marriage equality in Montgomery County, the petition filed today in Commonwealth Court by the state Department of Health has serious flaws," County Solicitor Ray McGarry said. "Montgomery County will be filing a response shortly. In the meantime, the Register of Wills office will continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples."


On Twitter: @brianxmccrone

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