As of Wednesday, July 31, 2013, the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania register of wills, D. Bruce Hanes had issued 36 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On Tuesday, July 30, 2013, the Pennsylvania Health Department filed suit against the county, claiming “There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from [Hanes’s] unlawful practice of issuing marriage licenses to those who are not permitted under Pennsylvania law to marry.” The lawsuit was filed on the same day that Governor Tom Corbett’s office said it would defend Pennsylvania’s marriage law in a separate suit filed by the ACLU. On August 2, 2013, Montgomery County asked the Commonwealth Court to throw out the Health Department suit.
Montgomery County has aligned with Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane in her support for marriage equality. Last month Kane refused to defend the state in the ACLU matter based on her belief that Pennsylvania’s marriage law was unconstitutional following the defeat of DOMA and Prop 8 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Hanes also defended his actions by claiming the marriage law to be unconstitutional. In a statement from the county, Hanes will not stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. With polls showing a majority of state residents support same-sex marriage, similar moves by other counties and municipalities could bring marriage equality to Pennsylvania from the ground up.