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USA, Pennsylvania: 21 Gay/Lesbian Couples Sue for Marriage Equality

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Pennsylvania mapTogether with the ACLU, twenty one same-sex couples filed a lawsuit Wednesday for marriage equality Pennsylvania. reports:

The state Commonwealth Court lawsuit parallels a separate challenge to the law filed two months ago in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. All of the plaintiff couples in the state action were married with licenses from a Montgomery County court clerk who began issuing them after Democratic state Attorney General Kathleen Kane concluded the law was unconstitutional and refused to defend it in federal court. Both of the challenges argue that the law, which defines marriage as the union of “one man and one woman,” violates the U.S. Constitution, but Wednesday’s filing claims that it also violates the state constitution.

While Montgomery County’s case might not be as strong, all these couples receive marriage licenses in good faith. We hope they prevail.

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USA, Pennsylvania: Montgomery County Clerk to Appeal Court Decision Blocking Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Pennsylvania mapApparently, it ain’t over yet. Even though a judge shut down Montgomery County, Pennsylvania’s marriage licenses for same-sex couples, the decision will be appealed.

Reuters reports:

The Pennsylvania court clerk ordered by a judge last week to stop issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples said on Tuesday he plans to appeal the ruling. Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes made his decision to appeal less than a week after Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini ruled the county clerk did not have the authority to decide that the state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. The appeal will be filed in the next several days, according to Montgomery County Solicitor Ray McGarry.

Love this guy.

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USA, Pennsylvania: What Happens Next for Marriage Equality?

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Pennsylvania mapNow that a judge has shut down Montgomery County marriage licenses for same sex couples, there’s still the question of what happens to all those couples who used them to get married.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

In his opinion, Pellegrini said, “There are no obstacles preventing those adversely affected by the provisions of the Marriage Law from asserting their own rights in an appropriate forum.” Nicola and Tamara Cucinotta of Paoli filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court last Friday against the governor. Their suit argues that their marriage is permissible under the state constitution and asks the state to recognize their union. The women obtained one of the first same-sex licenses from Hanes this summer, and later married. “It doesn’t say anything about Hanes, or about Montgomery County, or whether they received a license or (not),” lawyer Cletus Lyman said. “It says they are suing for the right to be married.”

When a similar thing happened in California in 2004, all the marriage licenses issued were declared invalid – we know, because we had one of them. But this is not 2004.

Joel Mathis at The Philly Post draws the same conclusion:

To torture a metaphor: Hanes helped get the ball on the field. The ACLU’s lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s gay marriage ban will help push that ball over the goal line. Victory is within reach. And if victory doesn’t occur there, it will occur sometime soon after that. Polls show a growing majority of Pennsylvanians now favor gay marriage. This is not the sort of issue on which popular will can or will be long denied. So yes, there was a moment on Thursday to be sad that Hanes’ valiant effort to bring marriage equality to his little fiefdom had been brought to a halt. But there wasn’t much despair, and that makes sense: We’ve seen what happened in California. It will happen here. The judge’s decision didn’t end the fight for gay marriage here–it’s just getting started.

Sooner or later, Pennsylvania will have full marriage equality.

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USA, Pennsylvania: Judge Orders Montgomery County to Stop Issuing Marriage Licenses to Same Sex Couples

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Pennsylvania mapA state judge put a stop to marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania yesterday. reports:

Commonwealth Court on Thursday ordered Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes to “cease and desist from issuing marriage licenses” to gay and lesbian couples. President Judge Dan Pellegrini avoided the major controversial issues – the constitutionality of the state’s same-sex marriage ban, the status of couples who have already married, and the state attorney general’s refusal to defend the ban – and ruled narrowly that Hanes lacked the authority to ignore state law and must immediately stop.

So what happens next? Maddow Blog reports:

It’s not yet clear whether Hanes will appeal, or what his chances might be in higher courts, but in the meantime, there’s a more pressing question: what happens to those same-sex couples in Montgomery County who’ve already received marriage licenses? According to the Associated Press account, their fate is “not immediately clear,” though it seems likely the state of Pennsylvania is about to un-marry them.

It’s an unfortunate end to what it seemed like such a hopeful event, but not entirely surprising. Will it help fuel the movement to remove the Pennsylvania ban altogether?

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USA, Pennsylvania: Both Sides Eagerly Await Marriage Equality Ruling

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Pennsylvania mapA ruling in the case of the state against Montgomery County could come down any day. reports:

A little past noon every day, Mike McMonagle checks the Commonwealth Court website, hoping for a ruling on same-sex marriage. It has been a week since oral arguments in the Montgomery County case, when President Judge Dan Pellegrini promised, “I will issue a decision as soon as I can.” Pellegrini didn’t give a timetable for a ruling, and his chambers said Wednesday that he had no plans to. But with each passing day, McMonagle gets a little more worried. “I would say, the longer the delay, the more worried our side should be. In our view,” he said, “it’s a very simple case to make.” McMonagle opposes same-sex marriage and led a protest on the courthouse steps after the Sept. 4 hearing in Harrisburg.

I would say marriage equality supporters have an even similar case to make. It’s equality, stupid.

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USA, Pennsylvania: Judge Promises Fast Ruling in Marriage Equality Case

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Pennsylvania mapThe judge hearing the state’s lawsuit against Montgomery County is promising a quick ruling in the case.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Pellegrini said he was not weighing the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban. But questions about its constitutionality arose repeatedly, and Pellegrini said he was concerned about the potential effect of his ruling on various levels of government… The judge has to determine whether the Health Department has legal standing to pursue what’s known as a mandamus action to force a government official to follow the law. He also has to decide whether Hanes qualifies as a judicial officer; if he does, the state Supreme Court may have exclusive jurisdiction.

So it sounds to me like we shouldn’t expect a slam dunk here, but that it could be bounced up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

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USA, Pennsylvania: Marriage Equality Trial Begins Today

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Pennsylvania mapThe case of the state of Pennsylvania vs. Montgomery County begins today in Pennsylvania.

Pink News reports:

The administration of Governor Tom Corbett, and the state health department are suing D Bruce Hanes, a county clerk who has issued over a hundred marriage licences to same-sex couples, defying a state ban on equal marriage, because he said he thought it was unconstitutional. The lawsuit says that he has been violating the ban on equal marriage. The Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg will hear arguments today. The Corbett administration wants a judge to immediately order Hanes to cease issuing the marriage licences, however several mayors, unable to issue the licences themselves, have been conducting the wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.

In related news, the state Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, who has herself refused to defend the law gave formal authority to the Governor’s lawyers to do so:

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Pennsylvania’s attorney general has granted express written authority to lawyers for Gov. Tom Corbett to handle a case in which the Health Department wants to stop a suburban Philadelphia court clerk from giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to a Tuesday court filing. The exchange of letters, which occurred over Labor Day weekend, was disclosed a day ahead of arguments in the case before Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg. Gregory E. Dunlap with Corbett’s Office of General Counsel said in the first letter that the governor’s lawyers believe they have the needed authority without the permission, but a recent directive from the judges suggested that confirmation may be needed at the Wednesday court hearing.

Do you think the court will issue an injunction while the issue is litigated, or will they let the weddings continue?

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USA, Pennsylvania: Marriage Equality Hearing Due Wednesday

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Pennsylvania mapThe long-awaited hearing over marriage equality and marriage licenses in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is almost here.

Time Magazine reports:

Wednesday’s hearing in Harrisburg pits Gov. Tom Corbett’s Health Department against D. Bruce Hanes, Montgomery County’s register of wills, who issues marriage licenses as part of his duties as clerk of the county orphan’s court. Hanes began giving marriage licenses to gay couples in late July, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Pennsylvania is the only Northeastern state that has neither gay marriage nor civil unions, but the legality of the more than 150 such licenses Hanes has handed out remains an open question. David Cohen, an attorney representing 32 couples who received licenses from Hanes, says it’s too early to speculate on the legal status of those marriages. “That’s certainly unknown because it would depend on the scope of the decision,” Cohen said. But he added that there’s plenty of legal precedent for courts to look at the core issue of how a local official decides whether an action is constitutional.

Even if the court were to declare Pennsylvania open for marriage equality, I’m sure the Republican State leadership would appeal. Still, it would be a huge step in the right direction.

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USA, Pennsylvania: State Defends Marriage Equality Ban, Compares Gay Couples to Twelve-Year-Olds

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Pennsylvania mapMontgomery County got its day in court yesterday, as the state argued against the county’s ability to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Towleroad reports:

In a brief Wednesday, state attorneys said those marriage licenses were never valid, and compared gay and lesbian couples to “12-year-olds” who are also barred from marrying under state law. The state Department of Health and Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes will appear in Commonwealth Court next Wednesday to argue the case… “Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old . . . is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his ‘license’?” the state wrote. 154 marriage licenses have been handed out to gay and lesbian couples since late July.

Although I love the fact that Montgomery County is issuing licenses to same-sex couples, I think they’re on shakier ground than the New Mexico counties – in Pennsylvania, it is still explicitly illegal, while New Mexico has no such ban.

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USA, Pennsylvania: Poll Says 54% Approve of Marriage Equality, But 76% Disapprove Of Montgomery County Licenses

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

titleA new poll in Pennsylvania shows that voters disapprove of a Montgomery County clerk’s issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, although they support marriage equality overall.

CBS Philly reports:

The new Franklin and Marshall College Poll shows there’s still majority support for same sex marriage in Pennsylvania. But Poll Director Terry Madonna says a much bigger majority believes it is wrong for elected officials to ignore laws they disagree with, such as the case of issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples in defiance of state law. “Seventy-six percent find that practice unacceptable, even though 54-percent of Pennsylvanians support gay marriage,” Madonna said.

The high negative number is surprising – I wonder how the question was asked?

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