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Same-sex marriage (SSM) In Pennsylvania

Part 4: 2013-JUL/AUG:
100th license for same-sex couples.
AG criticized. State files lawsuit to stop
SSM licenses.

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This is a continuation from a previous essay.

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2013-AUG-06: Update:

Montgomery County has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for weeks. They issued their 100th license on AUG-09 to Virginia Perrine-Wilson, 45, of Lansdowne PA and her partner. She said:

"Our philosophy has always been that we would never go to another state to pursue marriage, that marriage would have to come to us. We decided this is about as close as it gets. At least we're getting in on the ground floor, and hoping maybe this will be the impetus to change the state law."

During the 17 days between JUL-24, when the first license was sold, and AUG-09, 30 same-sex couples have been married.

Ralph Young, a history professor at Temple University who teaches a class in political dissent, said:

"They're acting in that long tradition of dissent: women fighting for suffrage, blacks fighting for civil rights. They're trying to force the government to do something." 1

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2013-AUG: Criticism of Attorney General Kane's refusal to defend the state's "marriage inequality" statute:

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) -- a group whose main function is to work tirelessly to prevent marriage by any same-sex couples -- re-published an article from The Mercury in the NOM blog. It is an Op-Ed titled "Pennsylvania Attorney General Ignores 'Rule of Law'."Author of the Op-Ed is Randall Wenger, the chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Family Institute in Harrisburg, PA. He also published the article in the The Morning Call."

The article said in part:

"Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to forgo defending Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act has undermined the rule of law in Pennsylvania. ..."

"What unites us, however, as Pennsylvanians and as Americans is a commitment to the process by which these political disputes are resolved. Regardless of what side of a controversy we’re on, there is solace in the rule of law — the concept that we are all playing by the same rules, and that those rules will not be arbitrarily changed to fit personal or political agendas.

We submit ourselves to this rule of law, and we expect our elected officials to submit themselves to it. This is a fundamental principle of the American republic. Nothing undermines political comity and stability more than when the rule of law is seen as contingent on the whims of politicians.

And yet this state of instability is exactly where we find ourselves in Pennsylvania due to Kane’s abandonment of our commonwealth’s overwhelmingly approved Defense of Marriage Act. Her actions beg the question: Which Pennsylvania laws are actually laws, and which are just suggestions? Only Kathleen Kane knows. ..." 2

On AUG-13, reader Grisha Tigger posted a comment to The Mercury article:

"The Constitution has primacy over any law passed by a legislative body. The AG is supposed to uphold the Constitution first. Kane has understood that PA's DOMA violates several provisions of the Constitution."

Webmaster's comment (Bias alert):

Bruce Robinson, the webmaster of this web site, filed the following comment to The Mercury's web site, NOM's blog, and Capitol Watch:

"There is an alternate explanation for Attorney General Kane's action. She looked at the ban on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. She also looked at the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. She probably looked at the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. She concluded that the PA law was hopelessly unconstitutional. Because of her oath of office to defend the U.S. Constitution, she refused to defend the state law. To do otherwise would cause her to violate her oath of office and violate the U.S. Constitution.

Please consider trying to present all sides to issues in the future."

NOM does not seem to review comments before posting them, so Robinson's comment was accepted immediately. The same comment submitted to The Mercury and the Pennsylvania Family Institute web sites were not posted initially because they must first be reviewed. They never survived the review process. This is one indication of the importance of obtaining news from both liberal and conservative sources. Both are biased. But if a person monitors both sides of each argument, and studies why the media outlets believe as they do, then the are much more likely to obtain a full understanding of the topic.

Rob Gleason, Pennsylvania's GOP chairman, issued an earlier statement further criticizing the Attorney General. He wrote:

"It is unacceptable for Attorney General Kathleen Kane to put her personal politics ahead of her taxpayer-funded job by abdicating her responsibilities. She is blatantly politicizing the highest law enforcement office in our Commonwealth at the expense of a core responsibility of the Attorney General’s office. ... Pennsylvanians are left with the question, if the Kathleen Kane’s political beliefs are the standard for law enforcement, what law will she ignore next?" 3

Governor Tom Corbett (R) is also a named defendant in the case. Through his general counsel, he will have the state marriage act defended. A.G. Kane said:

"I’m not leaving them high and dry. They have their own team." 4

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2013-AUG-28: Lawsuit launched in state court to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

D. Bruce Hanes, the Montco (Montgomery County) registrar of wills, issued 154 marriage licenses to same-sex couples between JUL-24 and AUG-29. The State filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court to stop further licenses from being issued.

Thirty-two couples who have obtained licenses have petitioned the court to act as intervenors in the case. They argue that they should have standing because a negative ruling by the court would invalidate their marriages.

State attorneys claim in their brief that same-sex marriage licenses have no "actual value or legitimacy." They compared loving, committed couples with "12-year-olds" who are also barred from marrying. They oppose the involvement by the 32 couples in the case, writing:

"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'? ... This case is about one thing: whether a local official may willfully disregard a statute based on his personal legal opinion that the statute is unconstitutional." 5

Hanes and his supporters claim that the 1996 state marriage law that restricts marriage to the union of one woman and one man violates the U.S. Constitution, is discriminatory, and is thus void and unenforceable.

Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania responded in a statement:

"Although the Governor's position on marriage for same-sex couples is increasingly out-of-touch with the majority of Pennsylvanians, we understand that he must defend the laws of the state. However, if there is one thing we can all agree on, it's that all people deserve to be treated with respect. The statements made by the attorneys do not simply defend the laws of the state; they deny loving, committed same-sex couples the dignity they deserve.

We're talking about couples who have been together for decades, who have built families together, who have given back to communities across Pennsylvania. We're not talking about children." 6

Meanwhile, Kathleen Kane (D), Pennsylvania's Attorney General maintains that the ruling by Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court in the federal Defense of Marriage lawsuit Windsor v. United States has made the state law "wholly unconstitutional." 7

Governor Tim Corbett (R) issued a statement the next day calling the lawyers' statement a poor analogy. He wrote:

"The case involving Montgomery County revolves around a very basic question: Does a public official have the authority to disregard state law based on his own personal legal opinion about the constitutionality of a statute? The analogy chosen in the legal brief filed on August 28th is inappropriate." 8

Corbett's statement is apparently referring to D. Bruce Hanes, but he might as well be also referring to Kathleen Kane (D), the Attorney General.

The Commonwealth Court is scheduled to hold hearings in the case on 2013-SEP-04.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Maryclaire Dale, "Pa. county grants 100th same-sex marriage license," Associated Press, 2013-AUG-09, at: http://www.njherald.com/
  2. Randall Wenger: "Pa. attorney general ignores 'rule of law' by not defending DOMA lawsuit," The Morning Call, 2013-AUG-06. at: http://articles.mcall.com/
  3. Chris Cillizza, "Who is Kathleen Kane," Washington Post, 2013-JUL-11, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  4. PA Atty Gen will not defend state marriage law," Breitbart, 2013-JUL-12, at: http://www.breitbart.com/
  5. Steve Benen, "Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year olds..." MSNBC, 2013-JUL-29, at: http://www.msnbc.com/
  6. Sunnivie Brydum, "Activists Demand 'Respect' After Pa. Gov. Compares Same-Sex Couples to Children," The Advocate, 2013-AUG-29, at: http://www.advocate.com/
  7. "Equality Pennsylvania Calls for Respect in Response to Comments Comparing Committed Same-sex Couples to Children," Equality Pennsylvania, 2013-AUG-29, at: http://www.equalitypa.org/
  8. "Comparing same-sex couples to children in gay marriage case was inappropriate, Gov. Corbett says," Associated Press, 2013-AUG-30, at: http://www.pennlive.com/

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Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2013-JUL-26
Latest update: 2014-MAY-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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