Judge to Decide Fate of MontCo Marriage Licenses Today [Updated]

More than 160 couples wait with bated breath as a court decides whether or not their marriage licenses will remain intact.

Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes (pictured, right) — the out-of-the-blue hero of the gay community who recently began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples — will sit before a Commonwealth Court today as it decides if his actions will be upheld in the eyes of the law.

He was sued in late-July by Governor Tom Corbett’s Health Department, the state entity in charge of seeing that marriages go off in Pennsylvania without a hitch. Their claim is that throwing same-sex nuptials into the ring will screw the system up, and that the marriages should be invalidated to honor a 1996 state statute that defines marriage as “a civil contract, by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife.”

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, the case hinges on a few specific criteria:

1. Whether the judges have jurisdiction to hand down a verdict given Hanes’ status as a judicial officer.
2. Whether handing out marriage licenses actually amounts to a judicial act.
3. Whether the constitutionality of the state marriage law is a defense in the case.
4. Whether the Health Department has standing to file the case.

“Some people have said I’ve broken the law, which I may have done,” Hanes told NBC News. “But I’ve broken an unconstitutional law.” Depending on how the court decides, 164 couples (98 who have gone on to tie the knot) will either be able to go on living happy married lives, or their marriages will be rendered useless. We’re hoping against all hope it’s the former.

Stay tuned to G Philly today. We’ve keeping an eye on the latest updates.

UPDATE [9/5/2013, 9:35 a.m.]: When the court day ended, I reached out to Philly attorney Dee Spagnuolo — who, with her wife Sasha Ballen, received the county’s very first marriage license when Hanes began issuing them at the end of July. She told me that, “[The case] ended late morning. [Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini] said he would rule as soon as possible, but it is not clear what that means. One week? Two? A month?” We’re all holding our breath, judge! Stay tuned for more updates.

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