Judge: County Official Can't Appeal Pa. Marriage Ruling

She made a 'contrived' argument to intervene in the case after the governor declined to appeal, the judge says.

BY Trudy Ring

June 19 2014 2:29 PM ET

Theresa Santai-Gaffney

A county official in Pennsylvania can’t appeal the decision striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Schuylkill County register of wills Theresa Santai-Gaffney, whose office issues marriage licenses, sought to appeal U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III’s May 20 ruling invalidating the ban, after Gov. Tom Corbett declined to do so. She also asked Jones to stop same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania until the U.S. Supreme Court decided the issue.

Jones ruled that Santai-Gaffney does not have legal standing to appeal his decision, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “If the highest elected official in the commonwealth chooses to abide by our decision, it defies credulity that we would permit a single citizen to stand in for him to perfect an appeal,” Jones wrote. Her action, he said, is “a contrived legal argument by a private citizen who seeks to accomplish what the chief executive of the commonwealth, in his wisdom, has declined to do.”

Santai-Gaffney also claimed that Jones’s ruling made her duties as an issuer of marriage licenses unclear. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he wrote.

Santai-Gaffney’s attorney, James Smith, immediately appealed Jones’s Wednesday decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. “We expect the Third Circuit to allow us to intervene,” he told the Bloomberg news service.

Several conservative state legislators, backed by right-wing religious groups, are also urging Corbett to appeal the May 20 ruling, the Inquirer reports. However, he has only 30 days from the ruling’s issuance to do so, and time is almost up.

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