Judge Orders Stop to Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

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HARRISBURG — A judge in Harrisburg ruled Thursday that an official in Montgomery County cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

A Commonwealth Court judge heard the case last week after a challenge from the state health department.

More than 150 same-sex couples from Pennsylvania are still waiting to hear if their marriage licenses are valid. But after a ruling from a Commonwealth court judge, no more same-sex couples will be getting those marriage licenses, at least for now.

“God bless the judge that did that because like I said, it’s an abomination. Nobody’s going to change the word of God,” said Anita Younger of Plymouth.

In July, Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes started issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. In a lawsuit, the state Department of Health argued that Hanes acted outside of his abilities as a clerk and the 174 same-sex licenses he issued were illegal.

Some people spending the afternoon in Wilkes-Barre agreed.

“I think that’s totally against the law, for one thing because Pennsylvania doesn’t have a law for same-sex marriages,” said of Carolyn Sperrazza, of Bear Creek.

The judge said in court last week that this case is not about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, but about who can decide what the law is in Pennsylvania. In his ruling, he said only a court can decide, not a clerk.

Even though the ruling went against Hanes, some people feel he still made an important statement.

“There should be more people like him to be able to show other people this isn’t a bad thing. They’re not going to ruin the basic foundations of society just because they’re getting married,” said Edward Washington of Wilkes-Barre.

It’s still unclear if the marriage licenses that were already issued are valid.

Earlier this summer, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that she would not defend the law.

The state’s general counsel will handle the court challenge.