John M. Becker

Judge Brilliantly Smacks Down PA Official's Bid to Defend Marriage Ban

Filed By John M. Becker | June 18, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, grasping at straws, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, Pennsylvania, same-sex marriage, standing

santai-gaffney-pennsylvania.jpgThis morning a federal district court judge blocked a Pennsylvania county official's attempt to defend the state's now-defunct marriage discrimination amendment. Republican Governor Tom Corbett decided not to appeal that same judge's May federal court ruling striking the ban down.

Theresa Santai-Gaffney, the register of wills in Schuylkill County in east-central Pennsylvania, argued that she should be allowed to defend the state's marriage ban because as the official tasked with issuing marriage licenses in her county, her "rights and duties" are at stake now that she has to issue them to same-sex couples. She further claimed that Jones's pro-equality ruling and Corbett's decision not to appeal have confused her about what Pennsylvania marriage law currently says and what her duties currently are.

Judge Jones wisely called shenanigans on both counts, saying they "[fell] far short of the mark" and "[couldn't] be further from the truth," respectively. He ruled that Santai-Gaffney lacked standing to appeal because she failed to demonstrate that marriage equality in Pennsylvania caused her any significant harm. In denying Santai-Gaffney's motion, he concluded:

This Court respects Santai-Gaffney's evidently deep personal disagreement with our decision to strike down the Marriage Laws. That said, we lament that she has used her office as a platform to file the Motion we dispose of today. To repeat -- there is nothing remotely ambiguous about how Santai-Gaffney must perform her duties relative to issuing marriage licenses. For her to represent otherwise is wholly disingenuous. At bottom, we have before us 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.

That's what a smackdown looks like, folks.

By the way, for a person who claims that marriage equality causes her so much harm, she's evidently survived just fine so far: the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Santai-Gaffney "has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and will continue to do so until a court says otherwise."

In an effort to persuade some court, somewhere to allow her to defend discrimination, Santai-Gaffney's lawyers promptly filed notice that they intend to appeal Judge Jones's order to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Copies of Judge Jones's order and Santai-Gaffney's appeal notice are after the break, via Equality Case Files.

Judge Jones's Order

1:13-cv-01861 #150 by Equality Case Files

Santai-Gaffney's Notice of Appeal

1:13-cv-01861 #152 by Equality Case Files

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