HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s attorney general has granted express written authority to lawyers for Gov. Tom Corbett to handle a case in which the Health Department wants to stop a suburban Philadelphia court clerk from giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to a Tuesday court filing.
The exchange of letters, which occurred over Labor Day weekend, was disclosed a day ahead of arguments in the case before Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg.
Gregory E. Dunlap with Corbett’s Office of General Counsel said in the first letter that the governor’s lawyers believe they have the needed authority without the permission, but a recent directive from the judges suggested that confirmation may be needed at the Wednesday court hearing.
A top aide to Attorney General Kathleen Kane says the delegation had previously been worked out with Corbett’s attorneys.
Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, acting as clerk of orphan’s court, has issued more than 160 licenses to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania, the only northeastern state without civil unions or gay marriage.
Kane, a Democrat, had previously made a similar delegation, allowing Republican Corbett’s lawyers to handle a challenge to the state’s marriage law in federal court.
After the U.S. Supreme Court threw out portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in July, Kane said the state ban on same-sex marriage was not constitutional.