US: Pennsylvania court to hear arguments in case against clerk who issued same-sex marriage licences

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A court in the US state of Pennsylvania will today begin to hear arguments around the case of a county clerk who is being sued by the state because he issued marriage licences to same-sex couples.

The administration of Governor Tom Corbett, and the state health department are suing D Bruce Hanes, a county clerk who has issued over a hundred marriage licences to same-sex couples, defying a state ban on equal marriage, because he said he thought it was unconstitutional.

The lawsuit says that he has been violating the ban on equal marriage. The Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg will hear arguments today.

The Corbett administration wants a judge to immediately order Hanes to cease issuing the marriage licences, however several mayors, unable to issue the licences themselves, have been conducting the wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.

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

Speaking in an interview today, Hanes said he was “not a crusader” and he was only doing what was right. He went onto say: “Some people have said I’ve broken the law, which I may have done but I’ve broken an unconstitutional law.”

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.