Activists Demand 'Respect' After Pa. Gov. Compares Same-Sex Couples to Children

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com August 29 2013 12:39 PM ET

LGBT activists in Pennsylvania fired back this morning after attorneys for Tom Corbett, the state's Republican governor, compared married gay and lesbian Pennsylvanians to children in a lawsuit aiming to stop a suburban county register of wills from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"Although the Governor's position on marriage for same-sex couples is increasingly out-of-touch with the majority of Pennsylvanians, we understand that he must defend the laws of the state," said Equality Pennsylvania executive director Ted Martin in a statement today. "However, if there is one thing we can all agree on, it's that all people deserve to be treated with respect. The statements made by the attorneys do not simply defend the laws of the state; they deny loving, committed same-sex couples the dignity they deserve."

"We're talking about couples who have been together for decades, who have built families together, who have given back to communities across Pennsylvania," Martin continued. "We're not talking about children."

On Wednesday, attorneys for the governor argued that marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania are invalid, just as marriages between 12-year-olds are legally null and void. 

"Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old … is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his ‘license’?” a brief filed by the state reads, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The governor filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop Montgomery County register of wills D. Bruce Hanes from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Talking Points Memo reports that Hanes has issued more than 150 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since he decided to act upon his conscience July 24, in defiance of a state-level ban on same-sex marriage. 

While Pennsylvania's governor is clearly opposed to marriage equality, the state's attorney general, Kathleen Kane, has said she will not defend the state's so-called Defense of Marriage Act in a legal challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union last month. Kane said, in the wake of the Supreme Court's gutting of the federal DOMA, that she believes the state law to be "wholly unconstitutional."