PA Gov. Says Montgomery Co.’s Issuing Marriage Licenses “Risk Causing Serious Harm”

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2013

In a legal filing on Monday by lawyers for the Pennsylvania’s state Health Department and Gov. Tom Corbett (R), lawyers argued that the actions of Montgomery County Clerk D. Bruce Hanes’s decision to begin issuing marriage licenses “risks causing serious and limitless harm” and is a violation of the separation-of-powers in the state of Pennsylvania. The Corbett administration is asking the court to order a halt to the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from the clerk’s unlawful practice,” the administration’s lawyers wrote.

The administration said Hanes has a duty to follow state law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman – and argued that county officials who flout the law “may be guilty of a misdemeanor for each act of neglect or refusal.”

…”Ours is a government of laws, not one of public officials exercising their will as they believe the law should be or will be,” the administration argued, adding that only courts can declare a law unconstitutional and suspend it.

Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and State Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s (D) announcement that she wouldn’t defend the state’s ban on marriage equality in court. The state’s statute limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is being challenged in court by the ACLU.

Lindoro Almaviva

August 14th, 2013

My god, it is like watching a train wreck. I mean, they are not trying hard enough to stop this from happening. Look at what happened in CA, hell broke loose in a matter of days, how many WEEKS has it been? The sound you hear is crickets as they nap

Timothy Kincaid

August 14th, 2013

Lindoro, I’m not sure they are trying at all.

The argument above is not one about whether the law is constitutional and even seems to suggest that the courts will find it not to be.

Timothy Kincaid

August 14th, 2013


I don’t think that your headline matches your commentary. The argument you quote is not about marriage equality but rather about Hanes’ decision to offer marriage licenses. They are arguing about administration, not marriage.

In fact, the third paragraph you quote appears to presume that the ban on gay marriage is at least somewhat likely to be found unconstitutional.

I think a better headline might be “PA Gov. Says issuing marriage same-sex licenses “Risks Causing Serious Harm”

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2013

Timothy. You’re right. I went with brevity at the expense of clarity. I’ve fixed the headline.


August 14th, 2013

I actually happen to agree with Tim on this one – the title is taking liberties with what was actually said by the governor. I happen to agree with Corbett that the conflict between state law and the actions of Hanes creates “limitless harm” to good order in the state through an executive taking it upon himself to interpret the law, which is clearly the job of the judiciary. I just happen to believe it’s the state that has it wrong and is creating the source of the conflict in the first place. But the rule of law requires that local officials follow state law – we all know this is nothing more than a piece of civil disobedience intended to trigger a judicial showdown. But in order for that to happen, the authorities at the state level have to assert themselves at some point.

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