Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Montco attorneys say state did not address constitutionality

NORRISTOWN County attorneys said in court filings Monday that the commonwealth "has forfeited its opportunity to argue the constitutionality" of its same-sex marriage ban because state attorneys did not address that question in the appeal currently before the state Supreme Court.

The appeal, filed in October by county Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, seeks to overturn a Commonwealth Court ruling ordering Hanes to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Hanes has argued that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and he cannot be compelled to enforce it. The Commonwealth Court judge refused to hear that line of defense and ruled only that Hanes lacked the authority to ignore state law.

In response to Hanes' appeal, state attorneys argued that constitutionality is irrelevant to this case and urged the Supreme Court to let that issue "be decided on another day."

Because the state's response did not include any reasons why the law should be upheld, county attorneys argue, the state was "in effect conceding the law's unconstitutionality."

In several other lawsuits challenging the same-sex marriage ban, the state has presented arguments in support of the law. The primary arguments are that marriage is an issue for states to decide and thus unaffected by the overturning of a federal ban, and that the law is not discriminatory because men and women are equally barred from marrying a person of the same sex.

No dates have been set, but attorneys for Hanes said a trial could begin as early as March. - Jessica Parks

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