Montco Official Lauds Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Bruce-HanesWith the Supreme Court’s ruling this morning, marriage equality is now the law of the land.

In Pennsylvania, same-sex couples have had the right to marry for over a year, after a May 2014 federal court decision struck down the state’s ban defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Ten months before that ruling brought PA in line with more than 30 states and the District of Columbia who already recognized same-sex marriages, Bruce Hanes – the Montgomery County Register of Wills – began handing out marriage licenses to all couples looking to wed.

Just seven days after Hanes made the decision to “come down on the right side of history and the law,” the Corbett administration, through the PA Department of Health, sued Hanes, arguing it was their job to ensure laws are administered uniformly throughout the state.

Today, Hanes applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of equality, but said his office will continue to operate “business as usual.”

Hanes said he was “very happy” about the Court’s 5-4 decision, and called it a “very good day” for marriage, families and the entire country. He was also quick to remove himself from being part of the conversation, insisting “it was never about me.”

“It’s not really about me. I don’t really think about it like that,” Hanes told PoliticsPA, admitting he felt “queasy” two summers ago when first issuing the licenses. “I think it’s about the obstacle that’s been overcome by everybody.”

There have been many reports of couples waiting in line for licenses in the 14 states in which same-sex marriage was illegal yesterday, but Hanes said he didn’t expect a “blip” in the number of licenses issued in the state after the ruling.

The Montco official emphasized the need for everyone to respect the decision of the highest court in the land and “move on.”

“Contrary to what some people are saying, it’s not the end of the world,” Hanes said. “It’s not the end of western civilization. [I think] it’s the beginning of an acknowledgement of equal rights for everyone.”

In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that states’ bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

“The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State,” the opinion held.

11 Responses

  1. Actually, his oath required him to follow “the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of this Commonwealth” in that order. When Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2013, he did it “upon the advice of (Montco solicitor Michael) Clarke, my own analysis of the law and mindful of the Attorney General’s belief that Pennsylvania’s marriage laws are unconstitutional.” He issued 174 same-sex licenses, 118 of which were used to complete marriage ceremonies. All the licenses were later ruled to be valid and the couples legally married. Furthermore, the lag between the eventual statewide court decree and Montgomery County’s ability to again issue licenses was less than a week, spanning a holiday weekend. And finally, Hanes was, of course, proved right last week. He wasn’t breaking the law — as ruled last week, the law was breaking the law.

  2. Yeah, Hanes should have waited for the court ruling. We can’t have individual elected officials breaking the law. He would have set himself up as the hero by refusing to issue licenses and then say he wishes he could have, but his oath required him to follow the law. Then invited those denied to sue him. That would have been the proper procedure. As a lawyer he should have known that. People forget, the Corbett administration prevailed in its suit against Hanes so for a while, after a federal judge allowed gay marriage, Montgomery County was the only county in PA where the licenses could not be issued because Hanes was subject to different court order no other county had in place. All because Hanes went about it the wrong way for political gain.

  3. And the reason I care about a not-very-bright county row officer who bravely said what his donors wanted to hear is . . . what?

  4. Glad to know Dems have finally accepted that the Constitution guarantees that money equals speech.

  5. EiM, the way it works for these guys is that they love the Constitution until it doesn’t work in their favor, then they hate it. Pretty soon — any day now, really — you’ll start hearing voices on the far right (i.e., Republicans) start yammering that we need a new Constitutional Convention to “put things back where they should be.”

  6. Sorry to disappoint fellas, but the constitution trumps the petty laws passed by small-minded bigots. The system works. It’s why you get to keep such a tight hold on your guns, despite the fact that they are much more likely to kill a member of your family then a terrorist or one of the angry minorities you are convinced are out there, just waiting for the right moment to attack you.

  7. We can all learn from Hanes. When he did not like a law, he simply broke it . . . openly. That approach can work for us all. When laws, or Supreme Court rulings, go rogue . . . STOP respecting the law. When law disrespects a majority view, the majority must resist in an open and vigorous manner. Enough is enough.

  8. The Brian Williams of gay marriage in Pennsylvania. Hanes had nothing to do with changing the law, but has no shame in taking credit for it.

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