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5 gay couples apply for marriage licenses in Montgomery Co.

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 24 2013 09:37:12 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 25 2013 06:32:12 AM CDT

Montgomery County offers marriage licenses to gay couples

NORRISTOWN, Pa. -

First it was the Attorney General; now it's the Montgomery County Register of Wills butting up against Pennsylvania's ban on same sex marriages.

On Wednesday, five marriage licenses were given to same sex couples.

County officials expect there will be many more.

The Register of Wills says when he was sworn into office, he took an oath to uphold the constitution.  He says that is why he started handing out same sex marriage licenses.

Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood are the first same sex couple in Pennsylvania to get a marriage license.

"We have been a family for 18 years and we are no different than anybody else and finally it's recognized," said Terrizzi.

The Pottstown couple was recognized by the Montgomery County Register of Wills.

D. Bruce Hanes says after Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to defend Pennsylvania in a lawsuit against the state's same sex marriage ban,  he got a request for a same sex marriage license.

He says he consulted with the county solicitor and researched the state constitution.

He says three sections of the constitution compelled him to issue same sex licenses despite the law.

"If you accept that marriage is a civil right, you can't discriminate against people of the same gender who want to get married," said Hanes.

Hours after Terrizzi and Bloodgood got their license, the couple's nuptials were filed in county records.

But not everyone in the county thinks Hanes did the right thing.

Commissioner Bruce Castor says it was an ill advised political move.

This is the advice Castor says he gave Hanes:  "I told him to refuse to issue the license, make a public statement that he disagreed with the law but he was constrained to follow it and invite the people who are aggrieved to sue him so that the matter would then be in court where a proper determination could be made."

Castor says same sex couples who get a marriage license in Pennsylvania before it's legalized could face charges of perjury because they have to swear that they know of no reason why they can't legally get married.

Many local Registers of Wills are a conference in Washington, Pa. Montgomery County's decision became the main focus of Wednesday afternoon's session at the conference, the Berks Register of Wills Larry Medaglia tell 69 News.

He says this resolution was passed by the Registers of Wills Wednesday:

"Resolution 2 of 2013

BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE Pennsylvania Register of Wills & Clerks of Orphans’ Court Association at its annual conference in Washington, PA, does adopt the following resolution:

WHEREAS the Pennsylvania Legislature has proscribed the statutory definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and,

WHEREAS this statute can be found at Title 23 Pa C.S. § 1501 et seq, and

WHEREAS Pennsylvania Clerks of Orphans’ Court are tasked with the duty of accepting applications for the issuance of licenses to marry within the Commonwealth, and

WHEREAS the official application for a license to marry is proscribed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and clearly states applicants shall be one man and one woman, and

WHEREAS no act of the Legislature, or any Court of jurisdiction has issued anything to the contrary, all Clerks of Orphans’ Court in the Commonwealth shall abide by the current law as we have sworn in our Constitutional Oath of office and not accept applications for or grant marriage licenses in contravention to the marriage statute, and

WHEREAS it is consistent with our aforementioned position, should the PA Legislature or a Court of Jurisdiction mandate a change to the marriage license law, we shall faithfully and dutifully follow that law.

Adopted by the members of the Pennsylvania Registers of Wills and Clerks of Orphans’ Court Association this 24th day of July, 2013."

Medaglia offered this statement to 69 News:

“In 1996, the Pennsylvania Legislature and Governor enacted a law clarifying that
marriage is between one man and one woman. Based upon that law, Pennsylvania
Orphans’ Court Clerks are only permitted to issue marriage licenses to
heterosexual couples until our law is changed either by legislative action or
judicial decision. Presently neither of those things have occurred.

As an elected official sworn to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution and Laws of
this Commonwealth, I have no authority to issue same sex licenses.

My decision offers no position on the underlying subject matter of this very
sensitive issue; rather it is intended only to clarify my intent to follow the
current law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is my position, and that
of the Registers of Wills and Clerks of Orphans’ Court Association of
Pennsylvania as affirmed by resolution today.”

Lehigh County officials would not comment on Montgomery County's decision other than to say Lehigh County would not be changing its policy.