Judge Orders Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to Stop Issuing Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples

HanesA Pennsylvania judge who said last Wednesday that he would rule quickly on oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by Governor Tom Corbett against Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes (pictured) with regard to the 174 same-sex marriage licenses Hanes has handed out since July, has done so, CBS Philadelphia reports:

Without addressing the issue of the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages, Judge Dante Pellegrini ruled that Montgomery County registrar of wills D. Bruce Hanes was acting outside his powers when he granted licenses to same-sex applicants, in defiance of state law.

In his ruling today in Commonwealth Court, the judge said that Hanes has “admittedly failed to comply with his mandatory ministerial public duty” under the marriage law.

The opinion goes on to say that even if Hanes is correct in his view that portions of the Pennsylvania marriage law are unconstitutional, the proper response is for aggrieved parties to bring an appropriate court action to challenge the law.

WPVI adds:

"Unless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the Marriage Law provisions or a court of competent jurisdiction orders that the law is not to be obeyed or enforced, the Marriage Law in its entirety is to be obeyed and enforced by all commonwealth public officials," Pellegrini wrote.

It was not immediately clear what the decision would mean to those who have already received a license.

Watch WPVI's breaking news report, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Hopefully they will ignore this and continue or it will spark a public outcry that will push marriage equality forward.

    Posted by: FernLaPlante | Sep 12, 2013 12:21:20 PM

  2. No worries. Just another case that will be overturned and add another nail in Cryin Brian and Maggie Moo's coffin.

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Sep 12, 2013 12:28:58 PM

  3. Well, the judge is correct, I suppose, but the genie's out of the bottle and there's no putting it back in. I hope Mr. Hanes and other civil servants of good conscience and good will continue to do the right thing by marrying gay couples until this thing comes to a boil and forces the PA Supreme Court to rule on marriage equality.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Sep 12, 2013 12:32:34 PM

  4. This is just a minor setback. But we have to be consistent. We are arguing that federal law overrules state law in terms of the marriage bans. We can't support a clerk that is issuing licenses when the state law says he currently cannot. But eventually gay marriage will be legal everywhere.

    Posted by: Anthony | Sep 12, 2013 12:38:19 PM

  5. The judge is right, though the clerk's actions did serve a valuable purpose while they were still going on.

    Posted by: Jack | Sep 12, 2013 12:44:17 PM

  6. And exactly how many times is the constitutionality required to go before the courts before we can just settle the matter for good?

    Posted by: Michael | Sep 12, 2013 12:44:45 PM

  7. This is a solid ruling. We can't have clerks interpret the laws at the expense of judges, voters,and legislators.

    That said, here's hoping that PA joins the right side of history sooner rtaher than later.

    Posted by: Peter | Sep 12, 2013 12:45:03 PM

  8. As one of the 174 couples, i say, BRING IT ON!!!!

    Posted by: Dr. C | Sep 12, 2013 12:46:53 PM

  9. Homophobic teabagger filth!!!

    Posted by: litper | Sep 12, 2013 12:56:04 PM

  10. @Michael:

    Until the state's highest court rules on the matter, or until the Supreme Court says that extending marriage benefits to gays is mandatory under the United States Constitution.


    Inappropriate and incorrect. This judge was correct to issue this order. He is doing what the law requires him to do, and that is exactly what a judge is supposed to do. Not rule however you want him to.

    Posted by: Jack | Sep 12, 2013 1:42:52 PM

  11. If law required him to kill gay people, he would do it too?

    Posted by: litper | Sep 12, 2013 2:58:13 PM

  12. @Litper: Please explain to me how that is in any way analogous?

    Posted by: Jack | Sep 12, 2013 3:11:17 PM

  13. I would think one path forward would be for a same sex couple, who wish to be married, to find a judge to order a county clerk to issue a marriage license on the grounds of the unconstitutionality of the statute. If Mr. Hanes had been ordered by a court to issue licenses none of judge Pellegrini's judgement would apply. A judge does have the ability to consider the constitutionality of a statute and the higher courts would have to rule on the law not evade judgement as was done here. New Mexico has set this example I say let's try it here in PA.

    Posted by: pfalzgrae | Sep 12, 2013 3:33:06 PM

  14. Correct ruling. Now we have 174 couples who have a license and some probably already married, so these can now go to court. I appreciate him standing his ground, or his principles, but if I was a judge I'd have ruled the same. Taking the law into ones own hands, while it might make us feel good or even just, isn't how things are supposed to be done.

    Posted by: Michaelandfred | Sep 12, 2013 3:56:12 PM

  15. This pretty well follows the script Gavin Newsom initiated in San Francisco by issuing marriage licenses in 2004 despite the then state law which prohibited them. Those marriages were invalidated, but led to the trail of lawsuits that ultimately created marriage equality in California.

    Posted by: Rich | Sep 12, 2013 5:00:21 PM

  16. Gay Americans are STUPID. The U.S. Supreme Court has said denying marriage to gay couples is unconstitutional. That means ALL gay marriage bans in all states should have been wiped off the books immediately. It cost gay people MILLIONS of dollars over many years to BUY that decision from the Supreme Court. I say BUY because that is what you do in American politics. You aren't GIVEN your rights - you basically make politicians and lawyers rich by buying their services.

    Had the Supreme Court made a ruling on gender issues or racial issues those rulings would apply to ALL states but because we gays are stupid and weak and we accept bull$hit we are still allowing the bans on gay marriage in all of these states. This is our fault for being so pathetic.

    Now we have to raise MILLIONS more money to make more politicians and lawyers rich as we battle state by state to prove what we have already proved - that DOMA is unconstitutional.

    Only in America would gays be so stupid....

    Posted by: Icebloo | Sep 12, 2013 5:36:44 PM

  17. Uh, No Lipter--killing gay people is not constitutional and is not part of the legitimate responsibility of any department of any state government.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Sep 12, 2013 5:39:12 PM

  18. "the proper response is for aggrieved parties to bring an appropriate court action to challenge the law."

    This will never hold up. No public servant can be compelled to enforce an unconstitutional law, even before it is actually declared to be unconstitutional by any court. Laws don't "become" unconstitutional (unless the constitution is amended, or the facts change). They ALWAYS were unconstitutional. And nobody legally can be made to enforce that.

    Posted by: Randy | Sep 12, 2013 6:24:06 PM

  19. @ICEBLOO:

    You clearly haven't read the Supreme Court's decision. It did not hold that not extending marriage to gay couples is unconstitutional. Go back and read.


    That is completely incorrect. Until the court weighs on constitutionality, the clerk is bound by the law and has to perform duties accordingly. This is the 100% correct legal decision, and I doubt it will even be appealed. Your understanding of how the legal system works is very flawed.

    Posted by: Jack | Sep 12, 2013 7:18:46 PM

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