Pennsylvania Sues County for Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses

One week after Montgomery County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Corbett administration has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the practice.
July 31, 2013

One week after Montgomery County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Corbett administration has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the practice.

The state Department of Health asked Commonwealth Court on Tuesday to issue an injunction to block D. Bruce Hanes from issuing any more licenses or accepting marriage certificates from gay and lesbian couples.

In response, Montgomery County said it would defend Hanes. Until a court intervenes, "the Register of Wills Office will continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples," County Solicitor Ray McGarry said in a statement.

The lawsuit alleges that Hanes "risks causing serious and limitless harm to the public," citing "administrative and legal chaos" and couples "left to believe erroneously that they have entered into a valid marriage under the law of Pennsylvania."

State law restricts marriage to one man and one woman, and states that same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries "shall be void in this commonwealth." Last week, Hanes announced that he would not enforce that statute because he believes it conflicts with equal-protection clauses in the state constitution.

The lawsuit means even more uncertainty for at least 34 couples who have received same-sex marriage licenses in Montgomery County. Typically, they have from three to 60 days to get a licensed officiant to carry out the weddings and return the certificates to the register of wills.

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