Pa. files lawsuit against official who married gay couples - abc27 WHTM

Pa. files lawsuit against county official who married gay couples

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Bruce Hanes Bruce Hanes


The Corbett Administration is firing back at a Montgomery County clerk who began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last week, defying state law.

In a 28-page petition filed in Commonwealth Court Tuesday, the Department of Health -- which oversees birth, death and marriage certificates -- ordered Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes to stop marrying gay couples.

According to the suit, Hanes' actions are in direct defiance with current state's 17-year-old ban on same-sex marriage, and "risk causing serious and limitless harm to the public throughout the Commonwealth and beyond."

DOH also states the certificates issued last week to dozens of gay couples are illegal, saying "the same-sex couples are left to believe erroneously that they have entered into a valid marriage under the law."

Hanes told abc27 News last week that he agrees with Attorney General Kathleen Kane's recent announcement that she will not defend the state ban on gay marriage in an upcoming lawsuit filed by the ACLU.
"On the one hand I have a statute and on the other hand I've got the Constitution, and I've chosen to uphold the Constitution," Hanes said.

One of the couples married by Hanes was Bolton Winpenny and James Booth of Swatara Township. They said they fear their license will soon be made null and void, but are hoping this has raised awareness about gay rights in Pennsylvania.

"Most Pennsylvanians don't want to see their state putting money and effort into getting rid of my marriage," Winpenny said. "I mean, there's plenty of things the Governor should be doing and focusing on eliminating our marriage is just not one of them."

When reached over the phone Tuesday, a DOH spokesperson directed abc27 News to Governor Tom Corbett's office, but officials there refused comment as well.


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