30 July 2013

Will PA court cases overturn state DOMA?

Last week, D. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills for Montgomery County, PA, in the Philadelphia suburbs, started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple in protest of a state law that mirrors the now-defunct federal Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

In defending his actions, Hanes said, "I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law."

While I believe that DOMA - whether at the federal level or at the state level - is inherently unfair, my first impression when I heard the news last week was that Hanes was breaking the law. So, as much as I admired his bold act of civil disobedience, I was uncomfortable about it.

Then today happened.

State officials are suing Hanes in hopes of getting a court order to stop him from issuing marriage licenses.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the state's marriage law.

Just as the federal lawsuits against DOMA resulted in that law being overturned, I am hoping that one or both of these state-level suits result in a similar ruling at the state level.

Much of our progress in America through the decades was the result of brave people boldly engaging in civil disobedience. With that in mind, I am no longer uncomfortable with Hanes's actions. Indeed, I applaud him for going there, and I hope to someday shake his hand.

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