Montco's rebel clerk, Bruce Hanes, rejects comparisons to Kim Davis

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Montgomery County Clerk of Courts D. Bruce Hanes, left, and Rowan County (Ky.) Clerk Kim Davis. (Left: Tom Gralish/Inquirer Staff. Right: Timothy D. Easley/AP)

Bruce Hanes and Kim Davis share a few things in common.

Both are elected officials, in charge of marriage licenses in their respective counties.  Both have flouted the law when asked to issue licenses to same-sex couples.  Both have signature hair styles (Davis' Apostolic religion prohibits women from cutting their hair; Hanes' beefy mustache was nominated in 2013 as a Mustached Man of the Year.)

In all other respects, however, Hanes views Davis as "the anti-Bruce."

Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, spent the last five days in jail for repeatedly refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Issuing the licenses, she argued, would be a violation of her 1st Amendment religious freedom.  As a government official refusing to comply with the law, she violated the Constitution, the United States Supreme Court, and a direct order from federal judge in Kentucky.  That judge ordered her detained Thursday for contempt, and allowed her release Tuesday on the condition that Davis would not interfere as her office continues issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Hanes, in 2013, did the exact opposite.  In spite of a Pennsylvania law restricting marriage to a man and a woman, Hanes issued 174 licenses to gay and lesbian couples before a judge ordered him to stop.  That was before a federal judge in Pennsylvania, and later the Supreme Court, declared same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right.  

"She has been told to do something by a court.  I was told to stop doing something by a court," Hanes said. "When I was told to stop doing something, I did it.  Immediately.  Completely.  No questions asked."  

In addition, Hanes said, their underlying motivations were different.

Davis's actions are based on her personal religious beliefs, which then affect her ability to carry out a government duty.  Hanes said his actions originated from that government duty (and just happen to comport with his personal beliefs on gay rights).

"I was speaking in terms of what the government ought to do," Hanes said. "I did what I did based on my view of the Constitution."

Although he disagrees with Davis, Hanes said the solution reached in Kentucky is perfectly adequate.  Davis' staff will issue the licenses, and she won't personally take part in it.  

"99 percent of the marriage licenses, [the elected official] doesn't have anything to do with anyway.  You fill out the form, the clerk hands it over, that's the end of it," he said.  "It's not even a compromise, it's just the normal order of business."

So there's one more similarity: In the end, both clerks got what they wanted.