Judge Orders PA County Clerk To Stop Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses

Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes has been ordered by Pennsylvania judge Dan Pellegrinion to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, ruling that Hanes lacks the authority to decide whether PA state rules are constitutional.

“A clerk of courts has not been given the discretion to decide that a law … he or she is charged to enforce is a good idea or bad one, constitutional or not,” Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini wrote in an opinion issued on Thursday. “Only courts have the power to make that decision.”

The Pennsylvania Health Department sued Hanes when he began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a June Supreme Court ruling that said the federal government must recognize same-sex unions in states where gay marriage is legal.

“After having issued 174 marriage licenses since then and having talked with many of those couples, I am more convinced today that I am on the right side of history,” he said in a statement. “Regardless of how my particular case is resolved, I believe the case for marriage equality continues to move forward, and I can only hope that my decision helped that effort.”