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Looking Out: Pa. judge orders clerk to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses

A Pennsylvania judge ordered Thursday a suburban Philadelphia official to cease granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of state law.

Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes started issuing same-sex marriage licenses nearly two months ago after announcing his belief that Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

While Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini doesn't address the constitutionality of the state's marriage law, his decision acknowledges a federal lawsuit filed in July that challenges it.

Instead, Pelligrini limits his scope to say that Hanes doesn't have the ability to declare a state law unconstitutional:

When public official [sic] don’t perform their assigned tasks, it creates the type of "complication" caused by the United States Attorney General decision not to defend DOMA, which led the Supreme Court of the United States in Windsor to spend as much time addressing that "complication" as it did on the merits of the case. In this case, a clerk of courts has not been given the discretion to decide that a law whether the statute he or she is charged to enforce is a good idea or bad one, constitutional or not. Only courts have the power to make that decision.

It's unclear whether this is a setback to Pennsylvania's marriage equality cause or not. By sticking to the administrative question at hand, Pellegrini has left the question of Pennsylvania's marriage law for another day. Which means for most same-sex couples in the Keystone State, it's business as usual:

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.

Left hanging in the balance are the 174 couples who have reportedly received marriage licenses from Hanes but whose marriages were never recognized by the state.

In other news:

So, what LGBT-related news have you been talking about this week?

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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