Pa. county defends granting gay marriage licenses

Pa. county defends granting gay marriage licenses

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Lawyers asked a state court today to throw out a lawsuit that seeks to stop a rogue county official from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, who cannot legally wed in Pennsylvania.

County attorneys for D. Bruce Hanes said the Montgomery County clerk has a sworn duty to uphold the Pennsylvania and U.S. constitutions — and the state law banning same-sex marriage violates both, they argued.

The state “cannot possess a clear legal right to force [Hanes] to abandon his oath,” the lawyers wrote.

The documents filed Friday come in response to a lawsuit filed against Hanes earlier this week by the state Health Department. The complaint seeks a court order to stop Hanes from granting licenses to gay couples; he has issued more than three dozen licenses since July 24.

Hanes began granting the licenses not long after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. At the time, he said he wanted to “come down on the right side of history and the law.”

Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state without gay marriage or civil unions.

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