In a letter to the townspeople of New Hope, Pa., Republican Mayor Larry Keller said he will not be officiating the wedding of two men despite their marriage license because he thinks it could leave the city exposed to lawsuits.
Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced last month that the state will no longer defend a 1996 law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, calling the law unconsititutional.
Since then Montgomery County Clerk of Orphans’ Court D. Bruce Hanes issued 130 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Orphans’ Court in Pennsylvania also handles marriage license disputes in purview.
“Pennsylvania’s DOMA statute is arbitrary and suspect, and is very similar to the statute which was struck down (by the U.S. Supreme Court),” Hane said.
“As part of the official duties of the office of the elected mayor of New Hope Borough,” Keller wrote, “I am permitted by law to solemnize marriages between persons who produce a marriage license issued by any County Clerk of Orphans’ Court. This authorization is not mandatory. A Mayor is not obligated to officiate any wedding.
“Since mid-July, 2013 the Montgomery County Clerk of Orphans’ Court has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Montgomery County Clerk of Orphans’ Court has been sued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health over these marriages … and there are other lawsuits pending in Pennsylvania on the constitutionality of same sex marriages.”
Despite Keller’s claim, law experts say there is no risk of New Hope being sued.
John G. Culhane, a law professor and specialist in same sex marriage rights told the New Hope Free Press that the town’s risk of exposure is minimal.
“Is there a risk of serious consequences? Probably no,” Culhane said.