Court Defines Guidelines In Pennsylvania Marriage License Case


When Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes announced that he would start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples of Montgomery County, despite the state's existing ban on same-sex marriage, a subsequent legal controversy was practically expected. Now that the legal challenge has been filed and is being brought before a court, attorneys on both sides are being advised by a Commonwealth Court exactly how to present their cases. 

PA Same Sex CoupleAccording to The Times Herald, attorneys should be forming their legal arguments to address five key issues:

"According to the court directive, the five main issues to be argued in the lawsuit include whether Commonwealth Court has jurisdiction, because Hanes might be considered a judicial officer, and whether the issuance of a marriage license is even a judicial act at all.

"Another issue is whether the Pennsylvania Health Department, which filed the lawsuit against Hanes, has the legal standing to sue. If it does not, a judge will have to determine whether Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s refusal to defend the state’s marriage act has anyimplications for the case.

"Since the Health Department is asking the court to issue a writ of mandamus against Hanes — essentially ordering him to stop issuing the licenses — a judge will also have to decide whether his actions are constitutional."

Attorneys for both parties have already filed several briefs on the case, including ones that call for the suit to be thrown out, as well as for the court to intervene and stop the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At present, the Hanes' office is still issuing said licenses, despite the current legal dispute. As of close of business Thursday, the grand total for same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses has reached 143. 


  1. Tatts says

    Montgomery County (suburban Philadelphia) is one of the richest counties in the US (median income), and until recently leaned reliably Republican. They have voted Democratic for President for the last 20 years (after a long dance with Republicans), but local races swung mostly Republican until about 5 years ago.

    Montgomery County is the 3rd largest population in the state, after Philly and Pittsburgh, and has half the population of the City of Philadelphia proper. This is a big deal.

  2. Stefan says

    It’s good that they’re bringing up the questions of constitutionality up. Could likely result in marriage in Pennsylvania MUCH faster then expected.

  3. enough already says

    I am not so sure this is a case of ‘go slow’. It seems more likely that this court, knowing the christians will appeal any decision which goes against them, is making sure to dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s.
    Remember, the haters lost before the Supremes over a technicality on Prop. 8.

  4. Dana Chilton says

    The marriages will likely be held invalid. But…it’s not impossible that the court may use this to strike down the marriage ban. The court could also rule that the ban was unconstitutional from the beginning (never enforceable) and uphold the marriages as valid (it’s the same legal theory that allows same sex couples to re-file their taxes for previous years when their marriages were supposedly invalid after DOMA was struck down as unconstitutional)

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