Montgomery County Solicitor Ray McGarry plans to file an appeal on behalf of county Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, who was ordered on Sept. 12 to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of a state ban on gay marriage.
Hanes issued a total of 174 licenses between announcing his decision on July 23 and Sept. 12, when Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini handed down the decision in response to a lawsuit from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Upon announcing his decision to grant the licenses, Hanes said that he took an oath to uphold the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions, citing the right granted to men to “pursue their own happiness."
According to Pellegrini, Hanes does not have the power to decide the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban, and his decision to do so was in violation of his legal authority.
"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,” Pellegrini wrote in the decision.
Hanes released a statement the day the decision was announced, stating that he was “disappointed,” but would “fully comply with the court’s order.” Hanes also said there was a possibility for appeal.
Montgomery County Commissioners Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards applauded Hanes for decision.
“The fundamental point that should not be lost is that two people who love each other should have the ability to get married and share a life together,” Richards said.
Minority Commissioner Bruce Castor agreed with the judge’s ruling.
“Whatever your take on the merits, executive officials cannot be permitted to decide which laws to enforce and which ones not to,” Castor said. “That is what this case is about. It is not, as so many want to make it, a referendum on same sex marriage.”
According to McGarry, the appeal will be filed in the next several days; he plans to make no further comment on the issue until it is filed.