Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Gay marriage hearing scheduled Sept. 4; couples sign on to intervene

32 same-sex couples request permission to intervene in defense of Montgomery County D. Bruce Hanes and the marriage licenses he has issued to them.

Gay marriage hearing scheduled Sept. 4; couples sign on to intervene

The Commonwealth Court today scheduled a hearing on the same-sex marriage case. On Sept. 4 at 10 a.m. in Harrisburg, attorneys will enter oral arguments on the legality of more than 135 marriage licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples.

Also today, 32 same-sex couples submitted a request to intervene in the case.  They are led by Sasha Ballen and Dee Spagnuolo, a Wynnewood couple who were the first to apply when Montgomery County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on July 24. (pictured at right)

Most of the couples are from Montgomery County, but some come from Philadelphia, Coatesville and beyond.  All of the couples have received marriage licenses from Montco Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, and now seek to "defend their marriages and the validity of their marriage licenses from the Commonwealth's ongoing discrimination against same-sex couples."

"This is a watershed moment in history for same-sex couples, and equality, throughout the United States and particularly in Pennsylvania," the brief states.  Citing the Supreme Court's Windsor ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, attorneys for the couples wrote: "It is similarly unconstitutional for Pennsylvania to prevent a same-sex couple in a loving, committed relationship from entering into a marriage."

The couples are represented by the law firm Dechert LLP of Philadelphia and David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University.

The state's case -- Hanes did not have the authority to violate the state's definition of marriage between one man and one woman.

The county's case -- Hanes decided not to deny same-sex marriage licenses because the ban is unconstitutional.

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Jessica Parks and Carolyn Davis
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