Anti-abortion activists are planning a "pray-in" outside an official building in Montgomery County., Penn., today after the county's register of wills began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a state ban on marriage equality earlier this week, reports Philadelphia's NBC 10.
The Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania plans to protest the dozen same-sex marriages that have been solemnized by Montgomery's register of wills, D. Bruce Hanes, in the past week. On Wednesday, Hanes announced that he would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because he wants to be "on the right side of history and the law." Approximately 12 gay and lesbian couples have applied for and been issued marriage licenses in Montgomery, according to NBC.
"We urge the Register of Wills, Bruce Hanes, to stop issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples," the Coalition said in a statement. "We urge Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman to charge Bruce Hanes for his violation of state law by issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples."
The Coalition's president told NBC that he and fellow believers intend to engage county officials in a discussion on marriage, then kneel down and pray inside the office. " think it will be a start to rally the pro-marriage forces in our county and our state," Coalition President Mike McMonagle told NBC.
A Pennsylvania statute enacted in 1996 recognizes only those marriages between one man and one woman. The law also forbids the state from recognizing legal same-sex marriages performed in other states.
That statute is being challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union, representing 10 Pennsylvania couples who who wish to marry their same-sex partner, two minor children, and one widow who recently lost her partner of nearly three decades. The lawsuit references the recent landmark Supreme Court rulings striking down a key section of the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and California's voter-approved ban on marriage equality, Proposition 8.
Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane said she will not defend the antigay law in court, despite being named as a defendant in her official capacity as an enforcer of the state's laws. "I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA," said Kane, according to a July 11 report from BuzzFeed. "I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional.”