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PA County Clerk Stopped from Issuing Marriage Licenses to Gays Appeals Case to State's Highest Court

D. Bruce Hanes, the Montgomery County Clerk who issued marriage licenses to dozens of same-sex couples before being ordered to stop, has appealed his case to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the AP reports:

HanesThe state Health Department took Hanes to court for violating the law after he began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in July. In September, Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ordered him to stop signing the licenses. By then, Hanes had signed 174 licenses.

Hanes says the court order forced him to violate his oath by complying with a law he regards as unconstitutional. He cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that the federal government could not deny benefits to married same-sex couples who live in states that allow same-sex marriage, as well as state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s subsequent refusal to defend the law against a federal court challenge because she considers it unconstitutional.

Hanes also contends the Health Department lacked legal standing to take him to court.

Challenge to Pennsylvania's Gay Marriage Ban to Go to Trial in June

A lawsuit filed last July challenging Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage will go to trial in June, the AP reports:

WhitewoodU.S. District Judge John E. Jones III told lawyers he would allow two weeks for the trial. Jones said he would set a specific date and a timetable for pretrial discovery and depositions soon. He rejected as unnecessary a defense request to delay the trial until August.

“I’m an optimist by nature,” the judge told lawyers for both sides at the conclusion of an hourlong meeting.

The federal lawsuit is the first of at least six state and federal court suits challenging aspects of the 17-year-old Pennsylvania law. Civil rights lawyers filed it in July on behalf of plaintiffs who include a widow, 11 couples and one couple’s two teenage daughters.

(image post-gazette)

Pennsylvania Judge Refuses To Block Challenge To Gay Marriage Ban

Pennsylvania Courthouse

Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast that blocks gay marriage thanks to a 17-year-old law that bans the recognition of marriage between same-sex couples.

JonesThe law soon may be no more as a federal court challenge of the law has been allowed to proceed after U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III refused the motions brought up to block the challenge and dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed in July by the ACLU on behalf on 10 couples and a widow. It's just one of several legal challenges to the state's gay marriage ban.

In his 10-page decision, Jones wrote, "The jurisprudence of equal protection and substantive due process has undergone what can only be characterized as a sea change since 1972," rebutting the defendent's assertions that his court lacks the power to hear the case.

Jones scheduled a conference for November 22 and recommended the lawyers for the case come "fully prepared" to discuss a trial start date. 

Pennsylvania Pastor Faces Church Trial for Officiating Gay Son's Marriage

20131110__422684~p1_300Over the weekend, Rev. Frank Schaefer joined with his supporters at Coleman Chapel in Lebanon, Pennsylvania for a candlelight vigil.  No one had died: the vigil was for Schaefer himself, who is facing a church trial for officiating his gay son's wedding in Massachusetts in 2007.  The Lebanon Daily News reports:

Schaefer is pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

"We know of a lot of churches that are doing it," said Schaefer, "but we're hoping that a lot of churches that we don't know of are doing it."

Schaeffer said the prayer vigil were not just for him but for the gay community.

"People are called upon to pray for me as I prepare for trial, for my family, but also for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community at large, because this is for a cause. This is not just for an individual."

Schaefer could lose his ministry if he is convicted of violating church rules.  The United Methodist Church allows its members to be gay, but does not recognize marriage equality or allow LGBT people to join the clergy.

According to the Daily News, a group of over 30 United Methodist pastors in Pennsylvnia who support Schaefer say they will officiate a joint same-sex wedding.

Schaefer hopes that his church will reconsider its position on homosexuality, and credits his son with changing his own views:

"Everything changed for me when I learned that my oldest son was gay," he said. "I think we need to look at this issue again. This is not just an issue of theology. This is an issue of life and death for our young people."

Schaefer said that as a teenager, his son considered suicide because of his struggle with his sexual identity.

"We, as parents and as Christians, rallied around him and affirmed him, and it brought him through some very rough times," he said.

Schaefer's trial will begin on November 18th.

(photo: Earl Brightbill & Lebanon Daily News)

Philadelphia Mayor Signs into Law Sweeping LGBT-Inclusive Legislation

NutterOn Thursday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (pictured right) signed into law legislation that he hopes will make The City of Brotherly Love "the most LGBT-friendly" city in the world. NBC 10 reports:

Nutter, city and state lawmakers and gay rights advocates said the legislation makes Philadelphia the first city in the U.S. to offer tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBT employees' domestic partners and their children as they provide to heterosexual spouses and their children.

Officials said the legislation also makes Philadelphia the first city to offer businesses tax credits as a way to encourage providing transgender-specific health benefits.

"My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues," said Nutter, adding that the signing struck a personal note because his friend, the late City Councilman John Anderson, was a gay man and a mentor who inspired him 30 years ago to pursue a life of public service. 

In addition to the business tax incentives, which were backed by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as well as LGBT advocacy groups, and the gender-neutral restrooms (required in all new or renovated city-owned buildings), the legislation revises Philadelphia's anti-discrimination law to include transgender people, extends decision-making rights to life partners on medical and other issues, and changes city forms and websites to offer options for same-sex couples and transgender people. 

SimsState Rep. Brian Sims (pictured right), Pennsylvania's first openly gay lawmaker, helped draft the law's language. In a statement, Sims applauded the bills passage: "This is a city that is truly respecting all its citizens...It is because of that respect that we are indeed a first-class city and we will continue to shine."

Earlier this month, Sims introduced marriage equality legislation for the Keystone State. Pennsylvania remains the only northeastern state without same-sex marriage.  

Pennsylvania AG Kathleen Kane Targeted for Impeachment for Refusing to Defend Gay Marriage Ban


Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who in July announced "I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's (law banning same-sex marriage), where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional", is now being targeted for impeachment by Republicans, Right Wing Watch reports:

MetcalfeA Republican state representative in Pennsylvania is circulating a memo calling for the impeachment of the state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, for her “misbehavior in office” and “violation of her constitutional, statutory, and ethical duties.” Earlier, a Republican state senator also called for her impeachment and asked the legislature to reduce her office’s budget...

...The state representative proposing impeachment, Daryl Metcalfe, recently stopped an openly gay colleague from speaking in favor of marriage equality on the state house floor after the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on marriage, saying his colleague was in “rebellion against God’s law.” Metcalfe even opposed a resolution condemning domestic violence because he feared it would advance the “homosexual agenda.”

Said Metcalfe in his memo: "It is our duty to stop her from engaging in further misbehavior in office."

Read the full memo at Right Wing Watch.


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