Southeastern PA

Mont. County defends decision to issue marriage licenses

Mont. County defends decision to issue marriage licenses

Montgomery County filed papers seeking to dismiss a suit by the Pennsylvania Department of Health Friday.

The state wants the Register of Wills to stop issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

The County says the Health Department has no standing in the case.

Victoria Dransoff and Nicole Keehn are the 55th same sex couple to receive a marriage license in Montgomery County.

"It's just a big deal for us to solidify stuff, solidify us in State of Pennsylvania," Victoria said.

Now the County wants to make sure this 17-year couple and others in same sex relationships can continue to be granted licenses to marry.

"We believe the Department of Health does not have a right to challenge this," County Solicitor Ray McGarry said at a news conference.

On Tuesday Pennsylvania's Department of Health filed suit against the county to have Register of Wills Bruce Hanes stop issuing same sex marriage licenses.

"What we have here is Bruce Haines took an oath of office. That oath of office required him to fulfill his duties of his office by following the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions," McGarry added.

Hanes started issuing the license on July 24th, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and after he reviewed the state's constitution which doesn't define marriage.

McGarry said only the State Supreme Court can rule, not the Commonwealth Court.

Also the State hasn't proved any harm is being done, he said.

And only the Attorney General, that county's District Attorney or a private citizen who has special interest in the litigation can file suit -- not the Health Department, McGarry finished with.

So far 13 of the 55 couples have married. Victoria and Nicole plan to add to the list no matter how many times it may take.

"I think if need to do it over again we will do again," Victoria said.

At this time we did not get a response from Governor Corbett's office.

There's no word on when the judge could rule.

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