by Ben Johnson
HARRISBURG, PA, September 12, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that a county clerk does not have the authority to violate state law and issue marriage certificates to homosexuals.
Montgomery County Register Wills D. Bruce Hanes became a national hero to the LGBT movement when he began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples despite the fact that a 1996 law defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Republican Governor Tom Corbett ordered him to cease and desist. Then the state Department of Health took Hanes to court, where they triumphed this morning.
“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,” ruled Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini.
Hanes “admittedly failed to comply with his mandatory ministerial public duty under the Marriage Law,” the judge said.
"A clerk of courts has not been given the discretion to decide that a law” is “constitutional or not," he added. "Only courts have the power to make that decision."
The ruling traveled from his courtroom to suburban Philadelphia, where the illegal licenses stopped rolling out at 12:10 p.m.
The county has 30 days to challenge the ruling, and Montgomery County director of communications Frank Custer said officials are trying to determine whether the decision is “appealable.”
Hanes said he was “disappointed” with the ruling, adding that he is “on the right side of history.”
But the state's pro-life and pro-family movement rejoiced at the decision.
"This is a victory for marriage,” said National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown.
Michael McMonagle, president of the Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania, praised the ruling, saying he was ready to “educate and motivate” pro-lifers to defend marriage.
Brown thanked Governor Corbett for his leadership. "As the chief executive of the state, he properly used his office to uphold the law and stop the potential spread of these rogue actions," he said. “Now we ask that he use the influence of his office to have the 'marriage' licenses that were issued declared invalid."
The validity of the 174 marriage licenses Hanes issued since July 24 is now in limbo. Judge Pellegrini's ruling did not touch on certificates that had already been issued.
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Montgomery County Solicitor Raymond McGarry said, “I do not believe that they’re automatically voided by the court’s decision.”
But John Culhane, professor of law at the Widener University Law School, told The Patriot News, “It think the likeliest result is that those marriage licenses will not be valid, unless and until the law is repealed or the law is declared unconstitutional.”
The California Supreme Court initially pronounced the gay “marriages” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom celebrated in 2004 null and void.
A number of state figures believe Hanes should pay a political price for violating his oath of office. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said that “breaking the law is worthy of impeachment,” because it spreads “lawlessness.” He believes both Hanes and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane deserve to be impeached.
Hanes was spurred to action after Kane, a Democrat, said she would not defend the state marriage law in court.
The push for gay “marriage” has operated largely by ignoring the law, as officials from Barack Obama to California Governor Jerry Brown.
New Mexico county clerks are issuing marriage certificates to gay and lesbian couples, although the state has no law either allowing or outlawing same-sex “marriage.”
The ruling has no bearing on a lawsuit challenging the state's legislation protecting marriage, which will proceed afoot.
“The most important thing that the legislature needs to do is to intervene in the ACLU lawsuit,” said McMonagle.
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