Pennsylvania Has First Gay Wedding As County Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Terrizzi and BloodgoodPennsylvania is currently the only Northeastern state with a same-sex marriage ban on the books. Although you would never know it if you were to attend the wedding of Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood, or apply for a marriage license in Montgomery County, just outside of Philadelphia. Terrizzi and Bloodgood are one of two couples who have been granted marriage licenses in the county after it decided to defy Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban. The country Register of Wills has also said that he will approve any other same-sex couples applying for a marriage license.

The two licenses come just one day after Montgomery County officials announced that they are willing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples yesterday. Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, an independently elected Democrat, told reporters that he wishes to be "on the right side of history and the law." He also cited Windsor v. United States, the Supreme Court case that gutted DOMA, as well as the ACLU's current suit in federal court to overturn Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban, a case that Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has announced that she will not defend. Hanes told reporters that he was actually willing to grant the first same-sex marriage license in Pennsylvania's history one day prior, but that the couple applying decided to withdraw their application after speaking with lawyers from the ACLU. 

Molly Tack-Hooper, a spokesperson for the ACLU, noted that this is not the first time that a county has defied a state's same-sex marriage ban:

"We know how it has played out in a few other states; we don’t know how it might turn out in Pennsylvania. Gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage licenses in Montgomery County should be aware that there might be uncertainty about the legal statuses of those marriages for a while because unfortunately in other states, governments have later invalidated the marriages."

HanesIt is not yet clear whether the same thing will happen to these two couples. Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett has not yet announced whether he will defend the lawsuit, and has refused to comment thus far. Hanes also maintains that "I have no knowledge of anything prohibiting me from doing it. If another couple came to me I would treat them exactly the same. I would approve it." The American Family Association of Pennsylvania did offer an opinion, however, written by president Diane Gramley, and addressed Hanes directly.

“Montgomery County’s Register of Wills is an attorney, thus should know the law, and as an elected row officer he has sworn to uphold the law. Apparently he is following the lead of Attorney General Kathleen Kane who has said she would not defend Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act even though the job she was elected to fill includes defending the laws of the Commonwealth. If he can’t uphold the law and issue marriage licenses only to those who can legally marry in Pennsylvania, he needs to tender his resignation.” 

County Commission Chairman Josh Shapiro told the press that "marriage equality will come to Pennsylvania. He says it's just a question of how long it will take." He also said that he is willing to defend Hanes' decision in court. Meanwhile, Alicia Terrizzi told reporters that she and her new spouse, Bloodgood, were not looking to be pioneers by getting married. Instead, they "simply want to take advantage of the opportunity offered by Montgomery County officials."


  1. Jeff says

    Hahha! Scalia’s going to have a coronary! I wonder if even he anticipated how soon he’d have to be spitting out his, “I TOLD you sos!!”

  2. Mary says

    I’m not sure this is a good idea. Going through a public referendum or the legislature gives the change legitimacy in the eyes of the public. County clerks have to obey the law – and same-sex marriage is not yet legal in PA. Now the case will end up in the state Supreme Court. Expect to hear more whining about “unelected judges” forcing their will on the people.

  3. Shelly says

    County clerks are sworn to uphold the Constitution, and as Antonin Scalia has helpfully pointed out, given the reasoning of the majority on Windsor, local and state bans aren’t left with much of a Constitutional leg to stand on.

    It will be interesting to see how it plays out, but the dominoes are falling fast, and I highly doubt referendums and legislative action are going to be how the bulk of of the remaining bans go down.

  4. JONES says

    This isn’t a difference of opinion about a zoning law or building permit. This is a direct attack on a minorities civil rights. You don’t f*ck with liberties and then try to make your stand on ‘reasonable’ behavior.

    County Registrar Hanes took this stand because AG Kane avowed not to defend an unconstitutional law. Corbett is dragging his feet because he’s a politician who is afraid to do what he knows is right. Bravo for Hanes. His are the kinds of actions needed to make equality a reality.

  5. Jack says

    While this sounds wonderful, no court has ruled on PA marriage equality. To have a pro-equality county clerk decide on their own is as bad as to have the San Diego County Clerk decide to defy the California S.C. decisions.

    I would rather see the County Clerk sue the state for the right to grant the license, but wait for a decision.

  6. Hey Darlin' says

    It’s not a matter of IF when it comes to gay marriage. It’s a matter of WHEN nationwide, for ALL STATES. We are just waiting to see who is standing in the way of progress at this point.

  7. WDK says

    This is so confusing, there’s tons of articles but no real legal opinion on what the possible outcome of this might be…I want word from someone higher up the food chain than a county’s Register of Wills.

    Kathleen Kane chose not to defend a law she saw as unconstitutional in the ACLU case against the state with which she was named a defendant, it seems like a reach to think she may choose to turn a blind eye on this one before the case is even heard.

  8. JONES says

    When there were slavery laws on the books and you recognized slavery for the dehumanizing reality it was would you have said to a runaway slave ‘but the law is against you so I can’t help you’?

    Standing up to unjust laws is what breaks them. Hanes is no fool. He knows the laws are unconstitutional and is willing to make this stand now and pay the price for abetting equality if need be. He is a hero.

  9. Randyowen says

    It is not against the law in PA to issue same sex couples marriage licences, its just against the law for the state to recognize the actual marriages… semantics but he is correct, the pastor who signed the license may have broken some part of the law, but i think he thinks he answers to a higher power…

    Now for all those saying we should always follow the law, are the same people in the south 50 years ago who would have sat in the front of the bus and made the old black lady walk to the back, or would you have gotten up and let the old lady sit down in the front like anyone with any self respect would have…

  10. Francis #1 says

    ALCU advised a few Pennsylvania couples not to get married in Montgomery County, fearing/expecting these marriages to be invalidated. So there’s that. Most likely, these marriages are not valid. So, my heart is mixed on the matter because any couple getting married these next days are likely to be disappointed in the near future, with their marriages ruled void.

    With that being said, I 100% agree with Jones, what Montgomery County officials are doing is taking a stand for equality, and we should thank them for that.

  11. Zlick says

    I believe this is how it all started in California when Gavin Newsom decided San Francisco should start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of California law. Sure, those marriages were later invalidated … but just as sure, it was the start of a ten-year battle that just ended with permanent marriage equality here in CA.

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