Judge Tells Pa. Official to Stop Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses, Doesn’t Rule on Those Issued

Jeffrey Meyer
By Jeffrey Meyer | September 17, 2013 | 11:25 AM EDT

If someone writes me a fraudulent check and is told to stop writing checks in the future, can I receive the cash value of the fraudulent check?

That's essentially the issue at hand in Pennsylvania where a local Philadelphia county official has been ignoring Pennsylvania law and issuing more than a hundred "marriage licenses" to same-sex couples.

The man, Bruce Hanes admits he knows he is deliberately breaking Pennsylvania but doesn't seem to care. "I made the decision to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, I said I believed I was coming down on the right side of history," Hanes argued, despite agreeing to comply with a Pennsylvania commonwealth court ordering him to stop issuing the fraudulent marriage licenses.

Under Pennsylvania law, marriage is defined as a "civil contract by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife." Not only have more than a hundred same-sex couples been issued fraudulent marriage licenses making their "marriage" irrelevant and illegal in the state of Pennsylvania, but Mr. Hanes has taken it upon himself to openly violate Pennsylvania law to come down "on the right side of history."

What's worse is that, while Judge Dan Pellegrini ordered Mr. Hanes to stop issuing future same-sex marriage licenses, he failed to rule on the status of those same-sex couples who received invalid marriage licenses, essentially leaving their marriage status in limbo.

One could argue that, by failing to issue a ruling on the marriage status of these gay couples, Judge Pellegrini waffled on the subject, paving way for some same-sex couples who received illegal marriage licenses to challenge Pennsylvania's current marriage laws and demand marriage benefits for the illegal marriage license they received. Legally, there should be no controversy. Mr. Hanes issued illegal marriage licenses to gay couples and thus the couples are not recognized as married under Pennsylvania law.

However, Judge Pellegrini's failure to make it clear that the illegally issued marriages are, in fact, illegal, threatens the integrity and purpose of Pennsylvania marriage law. The Heritage Foundation's Andrew Kloster argues, "those hurt the most in this situation are likely the same-sex couples with sham marriage licenses in the state of Pennsylvania, who have spent time and money obtaining pieces of paper that have no legal relevance."