Penn. Judge Orders Clerk to Stop Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses

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A Pennsylvania judge ordered one Philadelphia clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to the Associated Press.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini said Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes does not have the power to decide whether or not Pennsylvania’s gay marriage ban violates the state constitution.

“Unless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the Marriage Law provision 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 said.

Hanes issued four same-sex marriage licenses on Wednesday, bringing the total to 174 licensees already issued, NBC 10 Philadelphia reports.

It was not immediately known how this decision would affect same-sex couples who have already received a license.

The State Health Department under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett sued Hanes after he began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in July, arguing that Hanes’ actions could create chaos.

James Schultz, Corbett’s general counsel, said the key issue was whether local officials can decide which laws to uphold or reject.

“We respect the interest 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,” Schultz said.

In a statement, Hanes said he will comply with Pellegrini’s orders for now, but is “obviously disappointed” and is considering appealing the court decision.

Previously Hanes said he was brought into the forefront of same-sex marriage unintentionally, after two female doctors contacted him about applying for a marriage license in July, and said he only did what he thought was right.

“I decided to come down on the right side of the law,” he said in a July statement. “When I took the oath of office 19 months ago, I swore to uphold the U.S. and the Pennsylvania Constitutions. Article 1 Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, aptly entitled ‘Inherent rights of mankind,’ says ‘all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which is ‘pursuing their own happiness.’”

Sources: The Associated Press, NBC 10 Philadelphia