Judge Demands Office Stop Giving out Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

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A judge in Pennsylvania recently ordered a clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A court clerk in Montgomery County, named Bruce Hanes, issued 116 marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a statement made by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane. She made an official statement that declared the Pennsylvania Marriage Law unconstitutional under the United States Supreme Court. She referenced the recent United States v. Windsor case. Commonwealth Judge, Dan Pellegrini, wasn’t happy with clerk’s initiative, and he immediately ordered Hanes to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Pellegrini stated that Hanes had no right to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The judge said that Hanes admitted to failing to comply with mandatory ministerial public duties under the Marriage Law. Hanes is also accused of waiving the mandatory three-day waiting period for same-sex couples.

It remains to be seen if the Marriage Law will be upheld as unconstitutional. Pellegrini is quick to point out that the unconfirmed issue has nothing to do with Hanes circumventing the proper forums. Will these couples have to give their marriage licenses back? Will the court stand behind them? Will the marriages be null and void?

Lawyers with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Governor, Tom Corbett, debated Hanes’ actions in a legal filing. According to the filing, Hanes’ decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses was a separation-of-powers violation. They also stated that it could risk causing serious and limitless harm in the state. The Governor’s Office of General Counsel sent the Attorney General a letter stating that the Windsor case didn’t have anything to do with Pennsylvania’s Marriage Law.

There is no word on what will happen to the 116 same-sex couples who have already been issued marriage licenses. It would appear as though Hanes’ heart was in the right place. He heard from Pennsylvania’s Attorney General that the Marriage Law was unconstitutional, and he took it upon himself to rectify the situation. If it was against the constitution to withhold marriage licenses from same-sex couples, Hanes likely felt issuing the licenses was the right thing to do.

 

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