By Brad Segall and Jenn Bernstein
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — Montgomery County Solicitor Ray McGarry filed a response to a lawsuit challenging the Register of Wills Bruce Hanes’ decision to grant same-sex marriage licenses.
On Tuesday, the State Department of Health filed a lawsuit against Hanes, contending he’s breaking state law (see related story) by issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
The county has now responded to the lawsuit, claiming that Commonwealth Court has no jurisdiction in the case, the Department of Health has no standing, and there’s no clear “right to relief.”
“What we say is that they have no specific interest or authority over the issuance of the licenses themselves, and therefore they cannot allege any particularized harm,” says county solicitor Ray McGarry.
“What we have here is a situation where Bruce Hanes took an oath of office that required him to fulfill the duties of his office by following the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution,” Solicitor McGarry also said. “So he was left in a situation where there was a statute which says that he can’t do something, and the Constitution, which both he believes and the Attorney General had stated that she believed was unconstitutional. So when you are left in a dilemma deciding between the laws, he decided the Constitution was the law that he should follow.”
The county argues that the law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman violates the state and U.S. constitutions because it denies civil rights to gay couples.
The county has issued 49 marriage certificates to same-sex couples (see related story). Several have already married.