Judge to rule on the legality of Philadelphia same-sex marriage licenses

A Philadelphia county clerk, Bruce Hanes, has gone against state laws to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to Philadelphia CBS affiliate KYW. Court proceedings will take place on September 4 to determine the validity of the worker’s issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Gov.Tom Corbett’s Department of Health filed a lawsuit against Hanes, a Democratic county clerk in Montgomery County.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeastern part of the country to ban same-sex marriages, according to The Associated Press. However, since July Hanes has presented about 160 same-sex couples with marriage licenses in Montgomery County. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health office claims Hanes is breaking the law as the state does not currently recognize same-sex marriage. However, Hanes argues that federal rulings trump state laws.

“Based on the recent Supreme Court decisions over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I felt that Pennsylvania’s Marriage Act was indeed unconstitutional,” Hanes told Mother Jones. “So in this office, we no longer ask people their gender.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the part of DOMA banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional, Hanes began to issue marriage licenses for couples. The Pennsylvania ruling will weigh in on the nature of Hanes’ actions and not on the legality of same-sex marriage in the state.

Supporters of same-sex marriage feel the county clerk’s actions will be deemed triumphant even if the judge rules that the marriage licenses are invalid.

“The Governor of Pennsylvania is fighting a losing battle,” Karl Mannheim, a law professor in Los Angeles, told Mother Jones. “The states have lost. Hanes may incur some legal expenses, but he will eventually prevail.”

Opponents of Hanes’ actions claim that he is breaking the law , and believe marriage proceedings should follow Pennsylvania law and be the same throughout the state.