Pennsylvania county clerk goes rogue for marriage equality

Bruce Hanes is ignoring his state's ban on gay marriage and issuing same-sex couples marriage licenses anyway

Published July 25, 2013 3:53PM (EDT)

Alicia Terrizzi (left) and her partner Loreen Bloodgood (right)    (Brad Segall via CBS News)
Alicia Terrizzi (left) and her partner Loreen Bloodgood (right) (Brad Segall via CBS News)

Bruce Hanes, Register of Wills in Pennsylvania's Montgomery County, announced this week that, despite a state law banning same-sex marriage, he would issue marriage licenses to any gay couples requesting them.

Why? Because he wants to stay "on the right side of history and the law," as he explained in a statement announcing his decision:

When I took the oath of office 19 months ago, I swore to uphold the U.S. and the Pennsylvania Constitutions. Article 1 Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, aptly entitled “Inherent rights of mankind,” says “all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which is “pursuing their own happiness.”

Article 1, Section 26 of the Constitution says, “Neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision thereof shall deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right, nor discriminate against any person in the exercise of any civil right.”

Furthermore, Article 1 Section 28 says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the sex of the individual.”

After learning of Hanes' announcement late Tuesday evening, Loreen Bloodgood and Alicia Terrizzi were married bright and early the following morning. It was a personal victory, the couple says, even if the state challenges the validity of the license. “We’re no different than anybody else … finally it’s recognized,” Terrizzi told CBS Philadelphia. “It doesn’t make any difference to us. Nothing is going to change, but now we’re going to have a piece of paper so everybody else recognizes.”

The press secretary for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett responded to Hanes' act of civil disobedience in a statement, saying: "Individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce. All officials are constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislature. Only the courts have the power to declare a law to be unconstitutional and suspend its effects."

Gov. Corbett continues to support the state's ban on gay marriage, though Attorney General Kathleen Kane has announced that she will not defend the law in court.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Gay Marriage Gay Rights Lgbt Families Lgbt People Marriage Equality