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Montgomery County issues Pennsylvania's first same-sex marriage license this morning

Posted by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 11:55 AM
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Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 10:15 am | Updated: 10:16 am, Wed Jul 24, 2013.

Update: Montgomery County issued its first marriage license to a same-sex couple this morning. Limerick Township residents Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood have been in a relationship for 18 years "This just means much to us," said Terrizzi.

Previous story:

Montgomery County intended to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple on Tuesday despite a state law barring such unions.

However, just hours before the license was to be issued, the lesbian couple advised county officials that, on the advice of legal counsel, they would not seek such a license at this time.

“While (Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes) and his office were ready and willing to issue the first same sex marriage license in the history of Pennsylvania, my clients chose not to go forward because they were extremely concerned that the issuance of the marriage license would be challenged on procedural grounds without the courts ever addressing the actual issue of marriage equality,” said Philadelphia lawyer Michael J. Diamondstein, who represents the couple whose names he declined to disclose.

Hanes, a Democrat first elected to his post in 2008, said he was approached last week by the couple who indicated their intention of applying for a marriage license in the county.

A lawyer by profession, Hanes, and his department solicitor, Michael Clarke, working with county solicitor Raymond McGarry, spent the next several days studying every aspect of the state’s law barring same-sex marriages. This review included the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s refusal to defend a similar DOMA law by Pennsylvania on the grounds that it, too, is unconstitutional.

“Based upon the advice of Mr. Clarke, my own analysis of the law and mindful of the attorney general’s belief that Pennsylvania’s marriage laws are unconstitutional, I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law and was prepared to issue a license to the couple,” said Hanes.

“Had the couple sought the license today, I would have issued it and wished them all the freedom, independence, happiness and rights that our commonwealth’s Constitution purports to grant them,” said Hanes.

The county had no intention of sneaking the license through the process.

The communications office early Tuesday morning had issued a press advisory announcing a “major” press conference outside the county courthouse and advising media outlets to have a photographer present.

In addition to the couple being present at the news event, Democratic county commissioners, Chairman Josh Shapiro and Vice Chairman Leslie Richards, would have flanked Hanes in support of marriage equality.

“We should have marriage equality and Montgomery County should be in the forefront of that debate,” said Shapiro. “Ultimately, that will have to be a debate that plays out in the Legislature and in the state courts.”

“I support marriage equality and would be proud to have Montgomery County have a part in this dialogue and move the issue in the right direction where all marriages are allowed and recognized by the commonwealth,” said Richards. “This is a very important issue and I am proud that we could be stirring the momentum so that everyone who wished to be married can do so.”

One of those who would not have joined in the press conference is Republican Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr.

Castor succinctly responded, “No,” when asked whether he supports same-sex marriage.

by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 11:55 AM
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by on Jul. 24, 2013 at 2:42 PM


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