Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state without same-sex marriages or civil unions.
A state lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Pennsylvania, against Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes by the Pennsylvania Health Department to halt the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state Health Department has asked the Commonwealth Court to “prevent him [Hanes] from issuing any more” licenses to same-sex couples.
Hanes, who began issuing the licenses about a week ago, argued that he was “fulfilling his oath to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution” by allowing same-sex couples to acquire marriage licenses within his county. Montgomery County has issued over 30 licenses since the practice started.
Pennsylvania law “limits marriage between a man and a woman,” but it does not have an actual constitutional ban on gay marriage. Hanes said he was motivated to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses in his county after the state Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, announced she would not defend the state in a federal lawsuit filed by a group of same-sex families which challenges the Pennsylvania law.
According to the Associated Press:
Hanes began issuing licenses to same-sex couples shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage of Act.
At the time, Hanes said he wanted to “come down on the right side of history and the law.” He declined to comment Tuesday on the pending litigation, but county solicitor Ray McGarry said the Health Department’s lawsuit “has serious flaws.” The county will continue to grant licenses to gay couples, McGarry said.
The lawsuit against Hanes came on the same day that Republican Governor Tom Corbett’s office announced that it will be defending the state’s ban on gay marriage in a completely separate case filed in federal court by the ACLU.