PHILADELPHIA – A Pennsylvania court will hear arguments next month on the governor’s attempt to stop a county outside Philadelphia from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
The state Commonwealth Court scheduled oral arguments for Sept. 4 in Harrisburg.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration contends that Montgomery County officials are violating the state’s one-man, one-woman marriage law and the state Health Department is seeking a court order to halt the practice.
However, Democratic officials in the affluent county near Philadelphia believe the law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional. They began issuing same-sex marriage licenses July 24, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and after Democratic state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said she would not defend the state law against a federal lawsuit because she believes it is unconstitutional.
More than 130 gay and lesbian couples have since trekked to Norristown, the county seat, to obtain licenses from Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, and dozens have returned the forms after getting married.
In their legal briefs, the Health Department predicts untold “chaos” would result from Hanes’ stance, and threatened he and other officials could be subject to misdemeanor charges. Meanwhile, at least two mayors around the state are stepping into the fray.
In Western Pennsylvania, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman said he has performed several same-sex marriages at his home. In State College, Mayor Elizabeth Goreham instead hosted a same-sex wedding while inviting a local minister to perform the service.
Goreham said she supports same-sex marriage but believes performing the ceremony herself would “violate my oath of office, and I’m not going to do that.”