The Register of Wills in Montgomery County Wednesday morning issued a number of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
A source in the office of D. Bruce Hanes told PGN today that Hanes is in the process of issuing licenses to at least four same-sex couples.
This marks the first time that same-sex couples have ever received a marriage license in the state.
The move comes after Hanes announced Tuesday that he had planned on issuing a marriage license to a lesbian couple that day but that the couple backed out. When asked if he would issue a marriage license to other same-sex couples who applied, Hanes said: “The answer is yes.”
“I only issue marriage licenses, I don’t marry people,” he said. “If they get the license and were able to have someone officiate for them, they would go and get married I suppose.”
Pennsylvania currently has a statute on the books defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Hanes said that someone wishing to challenge his issuance would have to bring the case to a judge, who would then be tasked with deciding whether or not to issue an injunction barring Hanes from issuing any further marriage license to same-sex couples. The defense of his decision would the be taken up by his office’s attorneys, he said.
Hanes, a Democrat who took office in 2008, said the couple contacted his office last week informing him of their intent to apply for the license. This was the first same-sex couple to request such a license from his office, he said.
He said he conferred with solicitor Michael Clarke and county solicitor Ray McGarry on the issue, taking into account last month’s Supreme Court decision striking down as unconstitutional the key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
Also in the discussion was Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to not defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage against a recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Kane said the law was “wholly unconstitutional.”
“I considered just about everybody,” Hanes said.
In his own legal analysis, Hanes said he examined Article I, Section 1 of the state constitution regarding “inherent rights of mankind,” which include citizens’ rights to “pursuing their own happiness.” He also referred Section 26, which mandates that the state nor any political subdivision may “deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right, nor discriminate against any person in the exercise of any civil right,” as well as Section 28, which bars sex discrimination.
Hanes said he ultimately decided to “come down on the right side of history and the law.”