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Pa. Commonwealth Court To Hear Arguments On Same-Sex Marriage

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Harold Hayes Harold Hayes
Harold Hayes joined KDKA-TV in August of 1979 as a general assignment...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court will hear arguments on Wednesday about whether to stop the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples.

Gov. Tom Corbett says it’s illegal, but a local mayor and others have been performing the ceremonies. But the court case could help clarify where Pennsylvania is heading on the issue.

“I’ve officiated eight couples so far. I have another one scheduled this week. And as long as they’re printing them out, out east, I want to be officiating them out west,” said Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.

What are being printed in the eastern part of Pennsylvania are marriage licenses by the Clerk of Courts in Montgomery County.

And in Allegheny County:

“I’m very supportive of same-sex marriage and I think it should be the law of the land,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Having said that, issuing licenses right now in Allegheny County would be against the law. Issuing these licenses would give people false hope.”

What’s being performed out west and elsewhere are same-sex marriages. But Gov. Corbett says Pennsylvania law right now defines marriage as that between a man and a woman.

He wouldn’t speculate about whether officials like Fetterman could face criminal charges.

“I have no thought about the criminal charges. I’ve not gone that far,” said Gov. Corbett back on Aug. 15. “We have filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County.”

“I’ve always said I’d rather be a principled civilian than a racist, homophobic or cowardly mayor, so I’m not really concerned if there are any potentially criminal ramifications,” said Fetterman. “I just fundamentally believe that it’s an unjust piece of legislation that blatantly violates the equal protection clause and is just a matter of time. You know how this movie is going to end. It’s just a matter of when.”

But the arguments on Wednesday could just be the beginning of Pennsylvania’s legal battles over gay marriage.

State attorneys compared gay couples to 12-year-olds, saying neither are allowed to get married.

“When you compare gay and lesbian couples to 12-year-olds, if that’s the basis of your legal arguments, that just shows how weak it really is,” Fetterman said.

Watch David Highfield’s report:

The implications could affect the state attorney general and the governor’s roles in how the laws are enforced.

According to a court order, there are at least five issues the court has to consider including, whether the court has jurisdiction, whether the department of health has the right to bring this action and a couple of constitutional issues.

Allegheny County is also considering the possibility of joining a suit challenging the current state law.

“We could probably join with them – and file some sort of friend of the court – amicus brief and to be part of that,” Fitzgerald said. “Or even somehow join with Montgomery County to see if there’s some way to legally do, what I think should be legal.”

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