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Judge To Decide Fate of MontCo Marriage Licenses

lgbt pa flagA Commonwealth Court judge will shortly announce his opinion of Governor Corbett’s suit to halt a Montgomery County clerk from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

In July, Bruce Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the suburban Philadelphia county, following the Supreme Court’s ruling which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. His actions prompted a visceral response from the Corbett administration and the Department of Health filed a lawsuit with the Commonwealth Court to stop issuing those licenses.

Earlier today, Commonwealth judge Dan Pellegrini heard arguments from Pennsylvania’s and Hanes’s attorneys. According to the Tribune-Review, Judge Pellegrini stated that this case was more a test of jurisdiction than constitutionality.

“What’s not before us is the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s marriage act,” Pellegrini began the hearing saying. “What is before us in general terms is who decides.”

The clerk’s lawyers argued that Hanes was a judicial officer, and thus the executive branch could not halt his actions. Hanes, they asserted, has the authority to determine the validity of marriages.

“The question is here that Bruce Hanes had the right to determine the legality of the marriage,” says Montgomery County’s solicitor Ray McGarry. “He then issued the license because he believed it was legal, and we’re here in court today and the court will decide.”

On the other end of the debate, the state’s attorney put forth that it is necessary that all laws are enforced uniformly throughout the state. The Corbett administration alleges in its lawsuit that Hanes’ actions violate the state’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

“In short, this case is about one thing: Whether a local official may willfully disregard a statute on the basis of his personal opinion that the statute is unconstitutional,” Corbett’s attorneys argued in briefs filed with the court.

The Commonwealth Court will release its opinion on their official website. Judge Pellegrini promised a swift verdict.

One Response

  1. Poorly reported. These arguments were on preliminary objections and motions. No trial or “verdict” has even been scheduled.

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