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Same-sex marriage (SSM) In Pennsylvania

Part 3: Lesbian couple marries (Cont'd).
State seeks injunction. More licenses for SSMs.

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This is a continuation from a previous essay.

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2013-JUL-24: The first lesbian couple in Pennsylvania marries. More same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses (Cont'd):

Having obtained permission from a court to waive the normal three day waiting period, they were married on JUL-24, the same day as they obtained their license. Craig Andrussier from Lansdale, PA was the wedding officiant. He said:

"I feel great. I feel honored. This is an open door right now. Hopefully the rest of the state will open their eyes and minds and see that these are two people in love. If they want to spend their life together, there shouldn’t be a tag or label put on them. Basically anybody should have the opportunity and option to get married. I’m glad to be a part of it."

Four other couples also obtained their marriage licenses on the same day and had the waiting period waived. One couple was Ellen Toplin, 60, and Charlene Kurland, 69, who have been together for 22 years. Toplin said:

"Thanks to our progressive legislators here, our commissioners ... who have recognized the importance of recognizing individuals who love each other and have been committed for years and should have the same rights and equality that the rest of the world does. ... Of course the country is turning but Pennsylvania, unfortunately, we do lag behind. I understand we have conservative territory between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia but people aren’t as conservative as legislators are, is my belief and what statistics and surveys bear out. I hope our legislators realize and catch up to things. ... We know ... [that same-sex marriage is] not legal in the state of Pennsylvania. We can only hope that the Legislators will finally get in step with the populace across Pennsylvania, which overwhelmingly supports the rights of gay and lesbian individuals to tie the knot together and live their lives in a recognized union. We hope the legislators step up to the plate and start representing the people rather than their own interests."

James Goldstein, 52, obtained a marriage licence for himself and his partner Marcus Saitschenko, 52. Goldstein said that he felt great being able to obtain a license. He said:

"I’m feeling like more of a full citizen. ... We consider ourselves married regardless of whether the state recognizes it. We’re hopeful that the state will recognize it."

Nicola Cucinotta, 45, and Tamara Davis, 45 have been together for three years and are raising three children. Cucinotta said that she was concerned that their marriage may be invalidated by the state. She said:

"I care. I want it to be legal. We don’t want to be discriminated against any longer."

None of the five couples are plaintiffs in the "Whitewood v. Corbett" case in U.S. District Court. If, as expected, the state attempts to disallow their marriages, they might well launch a lawsuit of their own to regain their status and recognition.

D. Bruce Hanes said:

"I feel very happy as a matter of fact. It is historic. It is progress. The arc of progress is always upward. Maybe I’m a part of that. I think I’m on the right side of history. I believe I’m on the right side of the [state] Constitution and the law. I think if you come into my office three four years from now, you will say what was this [controversy] all about. We will be talking about what a non-issue it was." 1

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2013-JUL-30: Government officials sue to stop more SSM licenses being issued. Governor's General Counsel will fight "Whitewood v. Corbett":

Six days after D. Bruce Hanes started issuing marriage licenses, he had issued 34 SSM licenses and had registered six SSMs. The state Health Department filed a petition with a court on JUL-30 stating that he had:

"repeatedly and continuously [flouted the law.] There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from the clerk’s unlawful practice of issuing marriage licenses to those who are not permitted under Pennsylvania law to marry." 2

County solicitor Ray McGarry said the Health Department’s lawsuit:

"... has serious flaws. ... The county will continue to grant licenses to gay couples."

Also on JUL-30, Governor Tom Corbett's (R) General Counsel, James Schultz (R), said that the governor's office would defend the law prohibiting SSMs in response to the lawsuit "Whitewood v. Corbett" filed in federal District Court by 23 plaintiffs. Schultz wrote that the lawsuit:

"... will create chaos and uncertainty — not unlike what we are seeing in the unlawful actions" of Hanes. 2

"labman57," a reader of the Washington Post article posted a comment:

"Tom Corbett is eager to earn his place in history as the George Wallace of the anti-gay marriage battle." 2

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2013-JUL-29: State senator Daylin Leach (D) officiated at same-sex marriage ceremony:

Senator Leach married a lesbian couple and planned to perform another ceremony on JUL-31. Senator Leach is the main sponsor of a same-sex marriage bill in the Pennsylvania Legislature and chairs the LGBT Caucus. Leach, who is Jewish, is a licensed officiant with Universal Life Church (ULC) -- a group that offers free online ordination.

He told Media Trackers that, as an ordained minister, his only responsibility is to make certain that the couple getting married has a valid marriage license. It is not to determine whether the license is legal. He supports Hanes' policy of issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on 2013-JUN-26 in the Windsor v. United States case, he said:

"Hanes did what executives do all the time. He read the court's decision and interpreted and acted on it." 3

Leach said that Hanes was simply acting on his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

Writing in Huffington Post, he said:

"... no executive officer can unilaterally and capriciously choose what laws to enforce. But it is also true that all executives, including the Montgomery County register of wills, are legally required to take an oath of office, in which they swear to 'enforce, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States,' not the 'Domestic Relations Code of Pennsylvania.' Therefore, when a state or local law is clearly unconstitutional, Mr. Hanes has not only the right but the sworn obligation to not enforce it. ..."

"... there is ample Supreme Court precedent supporting the proposition that executive officials are not required, or even permitted, to enforce unconstitutional laws. The court has said that an unconstitutional law 'is void for any purpose' and must be treated 'as if it never passed'."

"The United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in United States v. Windsor, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While that opinion did not consider the Pennsylvania marriage law specifically, it contained language that made it fairly clear that the court viewed discrimination against gay couples who wished to marry as very constitutionally problematic. Writing for the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said laws that discriminate against married gay couples 'have no legitimate purpose' and serve only to express 'animus and disapproval' toward same-sex couples, which is not a constitutionally appropriate reason to pass legislation."

".. Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's most ardent opponent of gay marriage, wrote that 'the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. How inevitable it is to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples' marital status.' Justice Scalia was not happy about it, but he acknowledged the obvious implications of the majority's opinion."

"When the Windsor opinion was issued, Bruce Hanes faced a dilemma he did not ask for. Should he disregard the clearly unconstitutional Pennsylvania marriage statute? Or should he disregard the oath he took to God and those who elected him to 'enforce, obey and defend' the Constitution of the United States? I, for one, am glad that Mr. Hanes chose to respect the Constitution." 4

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2013-AUG-09: 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. 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."

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." 6

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Our prediction:

Our guess is that the government and/or courts will quickly move to forcibly divorce all of the married same-sex couples against their will. But a few years from now when same-sex couples are allowed to marry in Pennsylvania, their marriages will be registered retroactively. This happened in New Mexico in 2004.

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2013-AUG-28: Lawsuit launched in state court. Government lawyers' brief interpreted as an insult to loving, committed 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." 7

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 null and void.

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." 8

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." 9

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." 10

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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More news is expected in the near future.

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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. Ivey DeJesus, "Lesbian couple weds, another four same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses in Pennsylvania," Patriot-News, 2013-JUL-24, at: http://www.pennlive.com/
  2. "Pa. officials sue to stop rogue county from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples," Associated Press, 2013-JUL-30, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  3. Sarah Leitner, "Democratic State Senator Daylin Leach Officiates Gay Marriages in Pennsylvania," MediaTrackers, 2013-AUG-01, at: http://mediatrackers.org/
  4. State Senator Daylin Leach, "PA Official Legally Right to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses," Huffington Post, 2013-AUG-01, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  5. Maryclaire Dale, "Pa. county grants 100th same-sex marriage license," Associated Press, 2013-AUG-09, at: http://www.njherald.com/
  6. Greg Gordon, "NewsWrap," 2013-AUG-10, at: http://www.thiswayout.org/
  7. Jessica Parks, "State: Montco same-sex marriage licenses meaningless," Philly.com, 2013-AUG-29, at: http://articles.philly.com/
  8. Sunnivie Brydum, "Activists Demand 'Respect' After Pa. Gov. Compares Same-Sex Couples to Children," The Advocate, 2013-AUG-29, at: http://www.advocate.com/
  9. "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/
  10. "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 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2013-JUL-26
Latest update: 2013-AUG--30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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