A Pennsylvania judge is stopping a suburban Philadelphia court clerk from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying it was a clear violation of his legal authority.
Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini issued an order on Thursday that said Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes didn’t have the power to decide on his own whether the same-sex marriage ban violates the state constitution.
Hanes issued four more licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 174.
The state Health Department took him to court after he began issuing them in July. That was after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane called the Pennsylvania ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
Commonwealth General Counsel James Schultz issued the following statement:
“The key question in this case has been whether any local official, anywhere in Pennsylvania, has the ability to decide which laws to uphold and which laws to reject based on their own personal legal opinion.We appreciate the court’s consideration of the legal and social complexities of this issue, along with the future ramifications – not just in this individual case, but in all types of decision made by public officials.We respect the interests and dignity of all the parties involved in this case, but we are a government of laws and it is important that all office holders across the state enforce those laws uniformly”