Judge bars Pa. local official from issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Sept. 12, 2013 at 5:32 PM

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 12 (UPI) -- A local official must stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a Pennsylvania court ruled Thursday.

Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini ruled the state Department of Health is correct in its argument that the Montgomery County register of wills has no authority to overturn state laws on marriage, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News reported.

D. Bruce Hanes began issuing the licenses this summer after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the Pennsylvania law defining marriage as between a man and woman.

Hanes has issued more than 160 licenses to same-sex couples.

Pellegrini said Hanes, like other state and local officials, has no power to decide "whether the statute he or she is charged to enforce is a good idea or a bad one, constitutional or not," Phillyburbs.com reported.

"Only the court has the power to make that decision," the judge said.

Hanes announced shortly after noon Thursday he had stopped issuing same-sex licenses.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has compared gay couples to 12-year-olds, saying neither have the legal right to marry in Pennsylvania.

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