It started with Attorney General Kathleen Kane's substitution of her beliefs for Pennsylvania law, and now Montgomery County Register of Wills has climbed on the pro-same sex marriage bandwagon.
What I am writing about here is not whether you are for or against same sex marriage. It has to do the role of various elected bodies. Montco Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes had announced he would issue marriage licenses for same sex couples, illegal under current Pennsylvania law.
"I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law," he said.
Notice he said, "I decided." Well, history has yet to be written and he is on the wrong side of the law, because the U.S. Supreme Court did not invalidate Pennsylvania's law.
He also said, "Those are provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution that I think are diametrically opposed to the marriage law."
He consulted with County Commissioners and got conflicting advice. I agree with Bruce Castor's advice: "If he thought so strongly that it was unconstitutional, he should have refused to issue the license and made a public statement that he agreed with the couple applying, and invited them to sue him."
Exactly right. The courts decide, not individual elected officials because that leads to chaos.
As I said elsewhere, what if the governor decided he didn't like child labor laws because they hurt business and deny employment to youth. How would you feel if he chose to not enforce that law? Not good, right?
Civics 101: The people elect representative who write the laws which are enforced by the state and, if necessary, confirmed by the courts.
Each arm has its role and grand-standing public officials should not short-circuit the process.
If Hanes wants to support his views, I'd suggest he devote one or two nights a week (his own time, not county time) to meeting with Pennsylvanians to bring them to his cause and, in the final analysis, to welcome a court challenge.
That's how the system works, and works best.
If you like what Hanes says he wants to do, just remember it sets a precedent for some future dude to ignore some law that you do like.