The Corbett Administration has made it’s first move to stop the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses by Montgomery County. The issue first arose last week when Montco Register of Wills Bruce Hanes announced that he would be issuing licenses to same-sex couples, as he felt Pennsylvania’s law against the practice was unconstitutional.
As first reported by the Associated Press, the state’s Health Department filed the lawsuit with the Commonwealth Court, asking the Court to prevent Hanes’ actions as they violate state law.
After Hanes’ initial announcement, a spokesman for Governor Corbett’s administration denounced the decision.
“Individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce,” said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen in a released statement. “All officials are constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislature. Only the courts have the power to declare a law to be unconstitutional and to suspend its effects.”
Pennsylvania outlawed gay marriage in 1996 with the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. PA, however, is one of the few states where same-sex marriage is illegal yet not in violation of the state’s constitution.
The licenses issued by Hanes carry little more than symbolic weight; most legal benefits from marriage are conferred by the state and federal government, which do not presently recognize the unions.
Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of ten same-sex couples challenging the law as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.