On Maddow, Montco official defends same-sex marriage licenses
Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC Wednesday night to discuss a historic day in Pennsylvania. Five gay couples received marriage licenses in the county Wednesday in Norristown.
Hanes had said Tuesday he would not withhold marriage licenses from same-sex couples. He backed up that assertion a day later.
In a five-minute interview by Maddow, Hanes explained that he found three sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution - which guarantee the civil rights of individuals and prevents discrimination based on sex - at odds with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states.
Maddow, who identified Hanes as “a man who made history today,” asked him if the five couples who were granted licenses Wednesday would end up as political test cases.
"I really don't know," Hanes replied. "...I truly wish them well. I met each and every one of them, they are great people."
Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Tom Corbett's administration admonished Hanes' actions but fell short of declaring any legal action against the licenses or him.
"Individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce," said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesman for Corbett's Office of General Counsel. "All officials are constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislature."
This is the second time in less than three weeks that an elected official has gone against the oath of office they took when sworn in to publicly defend a stance for gay marriage.
While Hanes' office is at the county level, one of the state's most prominent public officials, Kathleen Kane, declared she would not defend the state against lawsuits over the legality of a ban on gay marriage.
Pennsylvania is among 35 states that defines marriage by law as only between a man and a woman.
Frederiksen, in a statement, said the Office of General Counsel believes elected officials should leave the legality of Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage to the courts.
"Only the courts have the power to declare a law to be unconstitutional and to suspend its effects," he said.