Bruce Hanes, the Montgomery County Registry of Wills, has decided that issuing same-sex couples marriage licenses is the “proper way to honor his oath to uphold the Pennsylvania constitution.”
This post originally appeared at ThinkProgress
By Zack Ford
Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood obtained a marriage license and were wed a short time thereafter Wednesday in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, despite a state law banning same-sex marriage. The County’s Registry of Wills, Bruce Hanes, had been contacted by another couple earlier in the week about the possibility, and after consulting with his solicitor, Michael Clarke, decided that issuing same-sex licenses was the proper way to honor his oath to uphold the Pennsylvania constitution:
Based upon the advice of Mr. Clarke, my own analysis of the law and mindful of the Attorney General’s belief that Pennsylvania’s marriage laws are unconstitutional, I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law…
When I took the oath of office 19 months ago, I swore to uphold the U.S. and the Pennsylvania Constitutions. Article 1 Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, aptly entitled “Inherent rights of mankind,” says “all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which is “pursuing their own happiness.”
Article 1, Section 26 of the Constitution says, “Neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision thereof shall deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right, nor discriminate against any person in the exercise of any civil right.”
Furthermore, Article 1 Section 28 says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the sex of the individual.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced earlier this month that she would not defend a federal challenge to the state’s law banning same-sex marriage because she believes it to be unconstitutional. Unlike many states, Pennsylvania does not have a constitutional amendment enforcing discrimination against gay couples, only a state law. A group of 23 plaintiffs, including ten couples, two of their children, and a widow, are challenging that law in federal court.
Bloodgood and Terrizzi have been together for 18 years and are raising two teenage boys, who were also present. Another same-sex couple, Sasha Esther Ballen and Diana Lynn Spagnuolo of Wynnewood, were also granted a marriage license a short time later. The fate of these marriages is unclear, but for now, Hanes has the support of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, who called it a historic day. Presumably, he will continue to offer such licenses unless some form of legal action prevents him from doing so.