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Judge Promises Quick Ruling in Pa. Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Dispute

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(Capitol dome, Harrisburg, Pa.   File photo) Tony Romeo
  Tony Romeo is Harrisburg bureau chief for KYW Newsradio...
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By Tony Romeo and Ileana Diaz

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — A Pennsylvania judge says he’ll rule as soon as he can, after hearing arguments today from both sides in connection with the Corbett administration’s bid to stop Montgomery County from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples (see related stories).

Commonwealth Court judge Dan Pellegrini heard arguments on whether the state’s Department of Health has standing to bring the case, and whether the case belongs in state Supreme Court instead.

But the big issue is whether the Montgomery County registrar of wills D. Bruce Hanes can raise in his defense his belief that the state marriage law is unconstitutional.

“The question is here that Bruce Hanes had the right to determine the legality of the marriage,” says solicitor Ray McGarry, who argued the case for the county.   “He then issued the license because he believed it was legal, and we’re here in court today and the court will decide.”

But the judge made clear that he believes deciding whether Hanes had the right will have ramifications for other county officials.   And Pellegrini also posed the “polygamy” question, asking if Hanes, giving himself the right to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, could also decide he had the right to issue a marriage license to more than two people.

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