An official in Montgomery County, Pa., issued at least five marriage licenses to gay couples this week in defiance of the state’s law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Bruce Hanes, the Register of Wills in the suburban Philadelphia county, granted the licenses in order to come down “on the right side of history and the law.” He claims that he took a look at the Pennsylvania constitution and the Supreme Court’s striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act before deciding that the 1996 state law prohibiting recognition of same-sex unions as marriages should not impede him from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit earlier this month in hopes of overturning the state law. State attorney general Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, has announced that she will not defend the law, leaving the defense to Governor Tom Corbett and his legal team, a local news source reports.
Corbett’s press secretary released a statement saying that “individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce.” It went on to explain that Hanes is “constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislature” and that the licenses he has issued are invalid.
Pennsylvania is one of the battleground states in the same-sex marriage debate, along with Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Oregon. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “a stampede toward the acceptance of gay marriage” in “unlikely” in states who currently do not recognize such unions, despite the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling.