Corbett: Lawyers used "inappropriate analogy" on gay marriage

Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes with second deputy registrar Helene Sepulveda (center) and clerk Lisa Wayne at the office's marriage license desk in Norristown last month.
Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes with second deputy registrar Helene Sepulveda (center) and clerk Lisa Wayne at the office's marriage license desk in Norristown last month. (TOM GRALISH / Staff)
Posted: August 31, 2013

HARRISBURG - Gov. Corbett on Thursday said his attorneys used "an inappropriate analogy" in the latest legal brief in a high-profile same-sex marriage case.

Corbett was referring to a brief his office's attorneys filed Wednesday in a lawsuit seeking to halt Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In those legal papers, the attorneys argue that "had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old . . . is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his 'license'?"

The analogy quickly garnered headlines, with critics - including the governor's political opponents - contending the analogy displayed insensitivity, at best, bias at worst.

Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for the governor's office of general counsel, which is handling the case for the state, said that Corbett believed the analogy was inappropriate, but that several media outlets, The Inquirer among them, misrepresented the remark.

"It was not a commentary on same-sex marriage," he said. "There was no intent to make disparaging statements about any group. It was a reference to the court that there is no other group in Pennsylvania, that is prohibited from marrying, that is allowed to walk into a courtroom and get a marriage license. To take that and turn it into an alleged commentary on same-sex marriage is twisting the nature of that legal filing."

A 1996 Pennsylvania law defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Hanes and his supporters have argued that the law is unconstitutional and discriminatory, and they will appear in Commonwealth Court next week to fight it.

Since July 24, Hanes has issued 154 marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Thirty-two of the couples have petitioned to intervene in the case, arguing that a ruling against Hanes could also invalidate their marriages. The state filed a brief Wednesday opposing the couples' participation, arguing that their marriage licenses hold no "actual value or legitimacy" and thus have no right to be defended in court.


Contact Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

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