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Pennsylvania clerk who defied state law with gay-marriage certificates heads to court

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Pennsylvania county clerk facing a court hearing on Wednesday to decide whether he illegally issued same-sex marriage licenses in a state that doesn't allow for the unions said he didn't mean to cause trouble.

He was just doing what he thought was right, NBC reported.

D. Bruce Hanes, 66, an elected county clerk in the suburbs of Philadelphia, began handing out gay-marriage licenses on July 24, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, sparking a nationwide legal debate about the future of gay marriage in states.

Mr. Hanes, who's also a lawyer, took it on himself to interpret the civil rights aspect of that argument and started dispersing certificates for gay couples seeking to marry, despite the failure of the state to recognize the unions.

To date, he's handed out 157 certificates for gay marriages, AP reported.

"I don't see myself as a crusader," Mr. Hanes said in the NBC report.

Yet the state hasn't decided if it feels similarly. Mr. Hanes faces a Commonwealth Court hearing on Wednesday to determine whether he acted outside the law.

The case is being watched closely by legal minds and gay activists alike. A ruling in favor of Mr. Hanes could bring Pennsylvania one step closer to gay marriage. If the court rules against him, the 157 couples he granted certificates to could find themselves officially single.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in July challenging the state's ban on gay marriage, in effect since 1996.

Mr. Hanes, meanwhile, remains unapologetic.

"Some people have said I've broken the law, which I may have done," he said, as NBC reported. "But I've broken an unconstitutional law."

 

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