Ill-content with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's lack of response thus far to a petition filed Tuesday intended to stop Montgomery County and its clerk D. Bruce Hanes from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Pennsylvania Department of Health along with Governor Tom Corbett requested expedited action from the court on Wednesday, ratcheting up the rhetoric against gay marriage in the process. According to Philly.com, Gov. Corbett said of Hanes, "Every time he issues a license, he is violating the law…I know the clerk thinks he is coming down on the right side of history, but he has to come down on the right side of the law."
Hanes began issuing marriage liscenses to same-sex couples last week, much to the dismay of the National Organization of Marriage and other gay marriage foes in Pennsylvania. The move came on the heels of state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's decision not to defend Pennsylvania's law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman in a federal challenge brought by the ACLU.
In their request filed Wednesday, attorneys for the Department of Health argue,
"The clerk is repeatedly, continuously, and notoriously acting in clear derogation of the Marriage Law. Many agencies of government – federal, state, and local – as well as persons and entities in the private sector may be misled by invalid marriage certificates that purport erroneously to certify that same-sex couples are married under the laws of Pennsylvania."
In fact there is some concern that a defeat in court will mean the invalidation of the 41 or so marriage licenses granted by Montgomery County since last week, just as couples in California saw their marriages invalidated after a court ruled in 2004 that then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom violated state law in allowing same-sex couples to marry. Nevertheless, LGBT allies and advocates in Pennsylvania remain resolved. Montgomery County commissioners are standing behind Hanes and County Solicitor Ray McGarry is said to be "drafting a response to the state's lawsuit."
"The Marriage Law is one of the last discriminatory statutes in the commonwealth," Kane's office wrote in response to a letter from Corbett's Office of General Counsel. "Just as discriminatory laws based on race, religion, gender, disability, and ethnic origin have been struck down by the courts one by one, so, too, will the Marriage Law." Kane's office called this "a watershed moment" and said it was "certainly not the beginning of the 'chaos and uncertainty' that you hysterically predict."