State Sues Montgomery County to Stop Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses [UPDATED]

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is suing the official who started handing out marriage licenses to gay couples last week in the state’s third largest county.

Damn. Just when I thought we were getting away with it, someone has stepped in to put a stop to the gay marriages happening in Montgomery County. 

NBC10 Philadelphia reports that the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which oversees marriage licenses in the state, is suing Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes for issuing licenses to same-sex couples, a move he decided to make last week in defiance of a state law that defines marriage as “a civil contract by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife.” (Can we stop for a few minutes and talk about how ancient that sounds?)

In the lawsuit, the Health Department states that, “There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from the clerk’s unlawful practice of issuing marriage licenses to those who are not permitted under Pennsylvania law to marry.” … and that the actions could result in illegal claims for benefits.

The group was encouraged by Governor Tom Corbett , who released a statement chiding both Hanes and State Attorney Kathleen Kane for her recent announcement that she would not defend the state in an ACLU lawsuit that challenges Pennsylvania’s gay-marriage ban — a suit Corbett has announced he’ll defend in court: “Elected officials do not have the ability to choose which laws they are going to enforce and which laws they aren’t going to enforce, but the law is still the law of Pennsylvania. … It has not been overturned by any decision of the Supreme Court.”

As of last Tuesday, 34 licenses have been granted to same-sex couples and six of those have gone on to actually marry. For now, according Montgomery County Solicitor Ray McGarry, marriage licenses will continue to be issued to same-sex couples. In a written statement, he said that he isn’t surprised by the Corbett Administration’s legal challenge, but he sees “serious flaws” in the Department of Health’s lawsuit. I’m really anxious to see how this plays out.

UPDATED [8/2/2013, 12:22 p.m.]: Montgomery county officials ask judge to toss out lawsuit that would stop marriage in their district. More here.

     

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