Pennsylvania county official, in new brief, defends decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples
August 20, 2013
Yesterday, Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes filed his response brief in a state court case seeking to stop him from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The AP reports:
A county clerk defended his decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses in a legal brief Monday that calls Pennsylvania’s marriage law “arbitrary and suspect.”
About 135 same-sex couples have obtained marriage licenses in Montgomery County since Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes decided to issue them last month.
Hanes, a Democrat, argues that Pennsylvania’s one-man, one-woman marriage law violates both the state and federal constitutions. He also cites the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Pennsylvania’s DOMA statute is arbitrary and suspect, and is very similar to the statute which was struck down (by the U.S. Supreme Court),” Hanes said in the brief, filed by the Montgomery County Solicitor’s Office.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration sued Hanes in commonwealth court, arguing that he had “repeatedly and continously” ignored the law. “There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from the clerk’s unlawful practice of issuing marriage licenses to those who are not permitted under Pennsylvania law to marry,” the lawsuit said.
In yesterday’s brief, Hanes refuted the Corbett administration’s claim that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples causes the state any harm, and argued that it should be the state Supreme Court–and not the lower commonwealth court–that should hear the challenge since it includes a state agency.
Last month, the ACLU filed a new legal challenge in a Harrisburg district court challenging Pennsylvania’s marriage equality ban. The case is known as Whitewood v. Corbett. A few days after the filing, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that she would not be defending the ban in court.
You can read the full brief below, via Equality Case Files (h/t to Kathleen).