Court rebuffs Pa. clerk in marriage-equality case

Updated
Ellen Toplin and Charlene Kurland in July, after receiving their marriage license.
Ellen Toplin and Charlene Kurland in July, after receiving their marriage license.
Associated Press

We’ve kept a close eye on developments near Philadelphia, where county clerk D. Bruce Hanes recently announced he’s granting marriage license to couples, gay or straight, who wish to get married in Montgomery County. Hanes insisted his policy is consistent with the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and in line with the judgment of the state Attorney General, who believes the state’s law discrimination against gay couples is unconstitutional.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R) administration, not surprisingly, disagreed and filed suit. Today, Hanes was rebuffed by a state court that was not persuaded by his arguments (thanks to my colleague Vanessa Silverton-Peel for the heads-up).

A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday ordered a suburban Philadelphia clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini said Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes did not have the power to decide on his own whether Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban violates the state constitution.

“Unless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the Marriage Law provisions or a court of competent jurisdiction orders that the law is not to be obeyed or enforced, the Marriage Law in its entirety is to be obeyed and enforced by all commonwealth public officials,” Pellegrini wrote.

It’s not yet clear whether Hanes will appeal, or what his chances might be in higher courts, but in the meantime, there’s a more pressing question: what happens to those same-sex couples in Montgomery County who’ve already received marriage licenses?

According to the Associated Press account, their fate is “not immediately clear,” though it seems likely the state of Pennsylvania is about to un-marry them.

As laws currently stand, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the only northeastern states that prohibit marriage equality.

Update: Here’s the ruling (pdf) issued this morning.

Marriage Equality, Civil Rights, Pennsylvania, Rachel Maddow Show Blue Dots and Bruce Hanes

Court rebuffs Pa. clerk in marriage-equality case

Updated