NBC10 - Deanna Durante
A protest is scheduled at noon on Friday to voice opposition to the decision to give same-sex couples marriage licenses at Montgomery County's Register of Wills Office. NBC10's Deanna Durante spoke with D. Bruce Haines on what his office will do in response.
Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood were the first same-sex couple to receive their marriage license in Montgomery County this week, but they certainly weren't the last.
According to Montgomery County's Register of Wills office, as of Friday afternoon, 26 same-sex couples received marriage licenses, despite a state law that bans the practice.
Same-sex couples began lining up at the county office on Wednesday morning after Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes said he would grant licenses to gay couples.
Not everyone is thrilled about the decision.
The Pro-life Coalition of Pennsylvania has issued a statement calling for Hanes' arrest for issuing the licenses.
"We urge the Register of Wills, Bruce Hanes, to stop issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples. We urge Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman to charge Bruce Hanes for his violation of state law by issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples," the statement said.
Hanes made the decision, he said, after both a legal consult and consideration of Attorney General Kathleen Kane's stance on same-sex marriages. Kane said recently she would not defend the state's law effectively banning same-sex marriages. That has left Governor Tom Corbett in the position of having to decide if his office will defend the state's law in court. It's being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union. While Corbett reacted this week to Hane's decision by saying no local official trumps state law, he has not said if he plans to fight the ACLU lawsuit.
"Numerous recent actions by "homosexual marriage" supporters indicate that they are also willing to violate existing laws and trample on the freedom of religion, speech and assembly of other Americans to achieve their goal," the Pro-life Coalition's statement reads. "Pro-life Pennsylvanians need to protect Pa's marriage law and oppose the ongoing war on children with greatly increased clarity and zeal."
Mike McMonagle, president of the Coalition says the group will be stage a pro-marriage pray-in at the county building this afternoon.
"We will be in the office to speak with the officials in the office and then we're going to kneel down to pray in the office. I think it will be a start to rally the pro-marriage forces in our county and our state," McMonagle said.
"The purpose is to make the case for marriage. This is to let elected officials know that it's a large consistency of people that oppose the efforts of one register of wills to change our pro-marriage laws. And he's deceiving these couples because its highly unlikely that these licenses will be recognized."
Shortly after they received their marriage license this week, Terrizzi and Bloodgood became the first couple to be married in the county. Bloodgood admitted she was nervous about the idea that the marriage might not be valid outside of Montgomery County.
"I was nervous; I didn't know really know what it meant. I mean, there's a part of me that thought it doesn't matter, they're gonna invalidate it anyway. And it's a shame to feel that way, but that's kind of the first thing that went through my mind," Bloodgood said.
Leonore Carpenter, Assistant Professor at theTemple University Beasley School of Law, said she worries that the couples don't fully understand what their licenses will mean outside of the county.
"It’s unlikely that these marriages will be recognized as valid. In other states where this has happened, those state’s courts have declared those marriages invalid, so I think it’s quite likely that both the Federal government and other states would be hesitant to treat them as valid," Carpenter said.
"I am very concerned that some couples might not understand the legal uncertainty of these kinds of marriage licenses, and might obtain such a license thinking that it will give them the same rights and responsibilities that married couples enjoy. The truly scary part is that these couples might have no way of knowing whether their marriage would be recognized until some event occurred where the existence of a marriage is important, such as the death or serious illness of a spouse."
Officials in other counties have begun weighing in on the issue.
The Register of Wills for Chester County, Terri Clark said her office will not be following suit.
"Well at this point and time the constitution and the state law states that same sex marriage is not legal. When I was elected by the voters of Chester County I took an oath to obey and uphold the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So at this time my office will not be issuing any licenses to same-sex couples," Clark said.
Similarly, Delaware County Register of Wills Hugh Donaghue made the following statement to press on Thursday:
“I’m sworn to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution and also to uphold the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ... (which) says marriage is defined as essentially a civil contract between a man and a woman who hold themselves out as husband and wife."