Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes has issued 174 marriage licenses to same-sex couples the past two months.
Thursday afternoon, a Commonwealth Court judge issued a strong rebuke to the suburban Philadelphia official.
Dan Pellegrini summed it up in the final paragraph of his ruling. It reads, "unless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the marriage law provisions, or a court of competent jurisdiction orders that the law is not to be obeyed or enforced, the marriage law in its entirety is to be obeyed and enforced by all Commonwealth public officials."
Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the Office of General Counsel, noted that the ruling is not about the broader debate over the legality of gay marriage.
"Local officials don't have the ability to substitute their own personal, legal opinion for the judgement of the courts or the judgement of the General Assembly when it passes these laws," Frederiksen said in reaction to Pellegrini's ruling.
"I guess it's not that surprising," said Louie Marven, executive director of the LGBT Center of Central Pa. "I mean, the state's gonna defend state law."
Marven called Thursday's ruling a small setback in the bigger fight for equality: a fight headed for federal court where the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's same sex-marriage ban is being challenged. The deadline for the state to answer that lawsuit by the ACLU is September 16.
"It's part of a movement toward marriage equality," Marven said. "It didn't happen today, but it will happen and we'll look back at Bruce Hanes and say thank you for being a visionary and being ahead of the curve."
State workers enjoying the warm afternoon around the Capitol seemed to support both the judge and same sex couples.
"I think he (Hanes) should be doing what he's allowed to do within the law because he's an elected official," said Ginger Hunter of Manheim. "But at the same respect, I think you should be able to love who you want to love."
"If it was illegal for him (Hanes) to issue the marriage licenses and they weren't recognized, I think he should have stopped," said Michelle Baxter of Lancaster. "And I think he might have given false hope to people who were hoping for legitimate marriage licenses."
As for those couples who thought they were married?
"I don't know," said Marven. "I think there's a lot of confusion, a lot of to-be-determined-ness."