US: Pennsylvania sues clerk for issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples

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The Pennsylvania health department is suing a court clerk of a county  who has been issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.

The law in the state defines marriage as a contract between one man and one woman, noted the lawsuit filed on Tuesday according to Bloomberg.

The department filed the lawsuit in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, saying that clerk of Orphans’ Court of Montgomery County in Norristown D Bruce Hanes, had been “acting in clear derogation of the marriage law,” by issuing the licences to same-sex couples.

“Ours is a government of laws, not one of public officials exercising their will as they believe the law should be,” lawyers continued.

The health department filed the lawsuit against Hanes because it has jurisdiction to review marriage licences whilst compiling vital statistics.

Reports suggest that five same-sex couples applied for the marriage licences last Wednesday in the county, following the decision of a county official to issue a marriage licence to a same-sex couple on Tuesday.

D Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County in southeast Pennsylvania has said he wants to come down “on the right side of history and the law”, and agreed to issue a licence on Tuesday to two women who contacted him last week.

He has not commented since the lawsuit was filed.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned against the weddings, as a lawsuit to have the state’s ban on equal marriage ruled unconstitutional, is currently pending.

The ACLU warned all of the couples that the marriages could be struck down by courts, given the still active ban on same-sex marriages.

The state attorney general Kathleen Kane has said she will not defend the state’s ban on equal marriage, following a lawsuit being filed to challenge the ban.

The ACLU and the Philadelphia law firm Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin and Schiller, filed the complaint earlier this week in the US District Court, in an effort to have the state’s Defense of Marriage Act deemed unconstitutional.