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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) In Pennsylvania

Part 5: 2013-SEP to 2014-MAR:
Same-sex couple sues for recognition
of their marriage. Judge orders stop to
SSM licenses. Another couple sues for
marriage recognition. SSM polling data.

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This topic is continued from a previous essay.

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wedding rings image2013-SEP-06: Same-sex couple who married in Pennsylvania sues for recognition:

Nicola and Tamara Cucinotta of Paoli, PA were one of the first couples to obtain a marriage license from D. Bruce Hanes (D), the Montgomery County Register of Wills. They subsequently married.

On SEP-06, they filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court against Governor Tom Corbett (R). They argued that the state Constitution allows them to marry, and asked that their marriage be recognized.

Their lawyer, Cletus Lyman, said:

"It doesn't say anything about Hanes, or about Montgomery County, or whether they received a license or (not). It says they are suing for the right to be married." 1

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2013-SEP-12: Judge orders County Register to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples:

D. Bruce Hanes, the Montgomery County Register of Wills, has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since late July. A total of 174 licenses were in the hands of such couples by SEP-12. He did this in violation of the Pennsylvania marriage laws, which specify that marriages can only be solemnized or recognized in the state if they are between one woman and one man. He took this radical step because he felt he had an obligation to confirm to his oath of office which requires him to follow the U.S. Constitution. In Windsor v. United States -- a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in late June -- the majority opinion held that the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution require the federal government to recognize marriages legally solemnized by same-sex couples.

On SEP-12, Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ordered Hanes to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. he ruled that said Hanes lacked the authority to determine whether Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage laws were unconstitutional.

Jude Pellegrini wrote:

"Unless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the Marriage Law provisions or a court of competent jurisdiction orders that the law is not to be obeyed or enforced, the Marriage Law in its entirety is to be obeyed and enforced by all commonwealth public officials." 1

Hayes responded:

The decision to issue a marriage license was not made in haste, and what we're going to do next, based on this decision from the court, will not be made in haste."

James Schultz, who is Governor Tom Corbett's (R) general counsel, issued a statement saying:

"We respect the interests and dignity of all the parties involved in this case, but we are a government of laws and it is important that all office holders across the state enforce those laws uniformly. The key issue was whether local officials can decide which laws to uphold or reject, based on their personal legal opinion. 1

Some of the same-sex couples who received marriage licenses hired lawyer Robert Heim to represent them. He noted that Judge Pellegrini had not ruled on the legality of these licenses. Heim said:

"The 32 couples that I represent are going to have to decide whether they also want to litigate it in the Commonwealth Court, since Judge Pellegrini virtually invited it." 1

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2013-SEP-25: Second lawsuit filed:

A lawsuit very similar to that filed by Nicola and Tamara Cucinotta of Paoli, PA on SEP-06 was filed on SEP-25. It is Ballen v. Corbett. Their complaint states that:

"If plaintiff Sasha Ballen were a man, this fictional man could marry Diana Spagnuolo; however, plaintiff Ballen is a woman, so she is not entitled to do so by sole virtue of her sex." 2

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2013-OCT-04: Governor compared a same-sex marriage to an incestuous marriage:

Governor Tom Corbett was interviewed on the "Ask the Governor" program on WHP-TV in Harrisburg, PA. He was asked about a suggestion by a member of his administration that a same-sex marriage would be like a marriage of two 12-year-olds. He responded:

"I think a much better analogy would be brother and sister, don't you?"

The intervewier appeared to be flustered and at a loss of words. The Christian Post has a video of the exchange on their web site. 5

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2013-OCT-09: State reacts to lawsuit by a same-sex couple:

William Lamb, an attorney representing Governor Tom Corbett (R), responded to the "Cucinotta v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" lawsuit issued by Nicola and Tamara Cucinotta on SEP-06. His brief stated that in Pennsylvania:

"The Marriage Law treats men and women equally, allowing both a man and a woman to enter into the contract of marriage with someone of the opposite sex. ... [the Cucinottas failed to] demonstrate that the Marriage Law in any way denies them the inherent right of pursuing their own happiness."

Presumably, he implied that all the couple has to do to pursue happiness is to break up their existing loving committed relationship, find men with whom they cannot form a loving relationship because of their sexual orientation, and then marry the men. Many commentators would regard this as a recipe for disaster, because an essentially all opposite-sex marriages solemnized by persons with a homosexual orientation end in divorce.

The brief also argued that since the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a sovereign entity that says it cannot be sued, that the lawsuit should be dismissed. 2

During late 2013, Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) published an undated summary of all of the five lawsuits active at that time. 3

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Some relatively uneventful months pass

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2014-MAR-03: Quinnipiac University conducted a public opinion poll on same-sex marriage (SSM):

Quinnipiac University reports:

"Pennsylvania voters support 57 - 37 percent a law allowing same-sex couples to marry. ... there are partisan, gender and age differences:

  • Support is 74 - 22 percent among Democrats and 58 - 35 percent among independent voters, with Republicans opposed 59 - 36 percent;

  • Men support same-sex marriage 53 - 41 percent, while women support it 60 - 34 percent;

  • Voters 18 to 29 years old support it 80 - 15 percent, while voters over 65 years old are divided, with 44 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed. 4

The poll sampled the opinions of 1,405 registered voters. The margin of error is ±2.6 percentage points."

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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. Mark Scolforo, "PA, judge orders end to same-sex marriage licenses," Associated Press/The Big Story, 2013-SEP-12, at:
  2. Jessica Parks, "State responds to same-sex lawsuit," Philadelphia Inquirer, 2013-OCT-09, at:
  3. Jen Colletta, "Progress in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Gay News, 2013-DEC?, at:
  4. "Pennsylvania Voters ... Support For Same-Sex Marriage Is 57 - 37 Percent," Quinnipiac University, 2014-MAR-03, at:
  5. Exerpt from the "Ask the Governor" program on WHP-TV, Christian Post, 2013-OCT-03, at:

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2014-MAY-21
Latest update: 2014-JUN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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