Same-sex marriage takes place in Pennsylvania

Timothy Kincaid

July 24th, 2013

Basing his opinion on the language in the recent Supreme Court ruling on DOMA3, County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes determined that Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, had no reason not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (WaPo)

At least five same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses Wednesday in a suburban Philadelphia county that is defying a state ban on such unions.

Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood, of Pottstown, were the only couple to marry right away, exchanging vows in a park before a minister and their two young sons.

It is not immediately determinable whether these marriages will be reversed in court – or even if they will be challenged.

The ACLU has sued the state for marriage equality, and State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, has said that she believes the law to be unconstitutional and will not defend it in court. Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, has as yet not stated his intent with either the ACLU lawsuit nor the Montgomery County marriages. Also silent is Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, a Republican.


July 24th, 2013

While I empathize, this is problematic. Respect for the law is one thing that has distinguished us from NOM and allies; it’s hard to see how a clerk deciding to ignore state law can end well.


July 24th, 2013

Mark, not to over-dramatize, but in Alabama it was once against State law for Blacks to ride in the front of a bus–until Rosa Parks decided to “ignore” the law.

The momentum in California started when Gavin Newsom decided that SF would start issuing marriage licenses despite state law saying Same-sex marriages were not legal.

Lots of laws have been broken in the name of civil rights. It’s a tried and true practice in the U.S.

Richard Rush

July 24th, 2013

Montgomery County is far from being representative of Pennsylvania. It has the second highest per capita income in the state, and probably one of the highest in the US. Outside of the Philadelphia and possibly the Pittsburgh regions, the state is more like Alabama.

With the Attorney General’s announced refusal to defend the state’s ban on same-gender marriage, and now this stunt, there may finally be some momentum building.


July 24th, 2013

NY is the same way. We just celebrated two years of marriage equality but trust me,like PA,there are a lot of places that make Alabama seem like the Castro District.


July 25th, 2013

Matt: You’re certainly correct that the US has a long and proud tradition of civil disobedience, but I have to agree with Mark: it’s one thing for private citizens (such as Parks, MLK, and many others) to commit civil disobedience, but it’s quite something else for a government official to use his governmentally-granted power (power beyond what’s available to private citizens) to do so. I’m not sure the end justifies the means here.


July 25th, 2013


The Gavin Newsome thing was a huge debacle that blew up in our face. It’s quite possibly the reason why Prop 8 passed. There were certainly plenty of Prop 8 commercials that brought up Newsom bringing gay marriage to Ca, “whether you want it or not”.
It’s a different time now, so who knows, but this is potentially a PR nightmare.


July 25th, 2013

It’s also worth noting that this move comes just as AFER and California (rightly) are arguing that the San Diego clerk shouldn’t have the right to unilaterally uphold Prop 8. If the Montgomery Co. Clerk gets to unilaterally interpret state marriage law, why shouldn’t the San Diego Clerk? (Of course, neither should be able to do so.)

It’s also worth noting that there’s already a powerful lawsuit filed in PA (which the AG refused to defend), and a strong Dem gubernatorial candidate (Alyson Schwartz) who supports equality. We seem to be winning there working within the system.

Regan DuCasse

July 25th, 2013

If anything, Prop. 8’s defenders are being shown what THEIR behavior looks like.

I’m not sure if the county clerk issuing a license in defiance of the local law is a good idea. Because as stated, it could backfire as what did happen here in CA.

But the fact remains: Even in defiance of a ban on ss couples marrying, it ‘neither picks one’s pocket, nor breaks one’s leg.’

Nobody is getting hurt by gay couples getting married one way or the other.
That is the ultimate point being made.
No one is ever hurt by the laws of equality and fair justice in this country.

Chris McCoy

July 25th, 2013

You shouldn’t simultaneously harangue the County Clerk who refuses to hand out marriage certificates to same-sex couples in places where it is legal, and then applaud the County Clerk who does hand out marriage certificates to same-sex couples where it is illegal to due so.

Calling out one person for breaking the law due to their personal convictions, and praising another for breaking the law due to their personal convictions, when the second instance works in your favor, is the very definition of hypocrisy.

Richard Rush

July 25th, 2013

Chris, you do have a valid point, of course. But, for what it’s worth, I think there are some differences, although those differences don’t affect their legality.

The PA county clerk issuing marriage licenses is acting in the interests of expanding rights and freedom, and out of the opinion that the existing law is unconstitutional. But the CA county clerk(s) refusing to issue licenses feels entitled to restrict rights and freedom due to personal disapproval of the people involved, which is usually derived from religious conviction, not constitutional issues.

One of the basic thrusts of our constitution is that people have rights and freedom by default, and they can only be restricted for demonstratively compelling reasons.


July 26th, 2013

Points taken. I probably should have looked at the time line regarding Newsom first.

The other difference between the two clerks is that the CA clerk actually *IS* harming couples who have a legal right to marry.

The PA clerk is not harming anyone (per Regan). In the worst-case scenario, a judge will invalidate his actions and the remaining legal actions will continue forward. But it’s pushing the envelope.

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