Judge asked to stop official from issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Sept. 5, 2013 at 12:09 PM
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HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 5 (UPI) -- A Pennsylvania judge has promised a quick decision on whether to order a county official to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The state health department had sought the order against Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, who has issued 165 licenses to gay and lesbian couples since July 24, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday.

A 1996 state law bars same-sex marriages, but Hanes contends the law is unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that opened up federal benefits and considerations to same-sex couples legally married.

Judge Dan Pellegrini gave no timetable when he might act on the order. He referenced the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Windsor case and a pending federal lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's law.

He questioned why Hanes or same-sex couples seeking licenses did not challenge the law rather than defy it.

Pellegrini also wondered about the possible outcome of ruling in favor of Hanes, which he said could open the legal gates for other public officials in the state to refuse to follow state laws they believe to be unconstitutional.

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