Southeastern PA

State sues to stop Montgomery Co. from issuing gay marriage licenses

State to sue Montgomery County over same-sex marriage

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - The battle over same-sex marriage in the Keystone state takes another turn.    

The Pennsylvania Department of Health filed suit against a Montgomery County clerk who's been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

According to court documents, D. Bruce Hanes issued 16 marriage licenses to same sex couples on July 24-25, 2013.

The Department of Health is seeking to stop Hanes because it says the licenses are against Pennsylvania law and may cause harm to the department.

The 20-page document, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health  versus D. Bruce Hanes, Clerk of the Orphans' Court of Montgomery County, was filed just before noon Tuesday in Commonwealth Court.

Last week 69 News was at the Montgomery County office as Hanes issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

By the end of the day Friday, the office had issued 26 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"We're no different than anybody else and finally it is recognized," added one couple.

Same sex marriage is not recognized in the Commonwealth and court documents cite reasons the practice should be stopped.

The petition to the court states one consequence of Hanes' conduct is likely to be, "Same-sex couples who falsely believe (or merely contend erroneously) that they are married will apply for or claim benefits or other treatment (both public and private) that is reserved for those who are lawfully married under Pennsylvania law."

Bruce Hanes was not available for comment but Montgomery County Solicitor, Ray McGarry, in a written statement said, "While it comes as no surprise that the Corbett Administration has filed an action seeking to enjoin marriage equality in Montgomery County, the petition filed today in Commonwealth Court by the state Department of Health has serious flaws. Montgomery County will be filing a response shortly. In the meantime, the Register of Wills office will continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples."

The decision has already led to protests in Montgomery County from groups against same sex marriage.

Now it looks like a judge will decide if the practice should stop.

So far no court date has been set to hear the case.

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