By Mark Abrams

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — The Corbett administration has filed suit against Montgomery County’s register of wills, seeking an order to stop him from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples (see related story).

A lawyer for the Pennsylvania Department of Health walked into Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg today seeking a court order to stop Montgomery County register of wills Bruce Hanes from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of state law which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Shortly thereafter, Hanes’ deputy, Joan Nagle, told KYW Newsradio that on the advice of counsel, there will be no comment on the action.

A spokesman for the Montgomery County Commissioners, who are divided on the issue, says he had not seen the suit and could offer no comment.

Why did the lawsuit come from the state’s health department?  The health department is the agency which oversees vital statistics, including marriage licenses.  The lawsuit asks the court to prevent Hanes from giving them to gay couples because it violates state law.

Hanes began issuing licenses to same-sex couples last week. He has said he wanted to come down “on the right side of history and the law” (see related story).

Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state without same-sex marriages or civil unions.

Hanes’ announcement that he would issue the documents to same-sex couples came just days after the state’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, made a speech in which she said it was her opinion the state’s marriage laws were unconstitutional and she wouldn’t defend them in court (see related story).

But Gov. Tom Corbett, who opposes same-sex marriages, says Kane and Hanes are on the wrong side of the law.

“Elected officials do not have the ability to choose which laws they are going to enforce and which laws they are not going to enforce,” Corbett said today.

He said it’s up to the state legislature to make or change the law, and for the state Supreme Court or US Supreme Court to decide issues of constitutionality.


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