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December 07, 2015

Montco same-sex couples can keep wedding anniversaries

Department of Health gives up battle over marriage dates

Before the U.S. Supreme Court's July ruling that same-sex marriages were a constitutional right, a federal judge struck down Pennsylvania's ban a year earlier, allowing gay couples to marry in the state.

Yet even before that, Montgomery County officials defied state law and began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in 2013. County clerk Wills D. Bruce Hanes, a Democrat, issued 174 licenses before being sued by then-Gov. Tom Corbett and a state judge ordered him to stop.

With same-sex marriages now legal on a Federal level, any questions over the legal legitimacy of those 174 licenses would seemingly be answered.

However, because of the timing of those law-defying licenses and the eventual state ruling about a year later one technicality remains: when are these couples' wedding anniversaries?

According to CBS Philly, the Pennsylvania Department of Health originally decided that the licenses weren't valid until the state ruling issued on May 20, 2014.

Hanes fought that ruling, arguing the date should be when he issued the licenses. He won, as the department eventually gave up. More from CBS Philly:

Hanes disagreed. “If this is right that has existed, and those two laws are unconstitutional, then the valid date would be the date that the marriage ceremony occurred.”
That loose end tied up as the department of health says it won’t challenge using the dates of the ceremonies.

This prompted Domenick Scudera, a professor of theater at Ursinus College who was one of the recipients of those 174 licenses, to sarcastically thank the state for allowing him and his husband Brian to keep their anniversary date in a Huffington Post essay:

Whew! What a relief! Brian and I filed joint taxes as a married couple in 2013. It would have been a nightmare to go back and re-file. Plus, we popped some champagne this past August 10 to celebrate our second anniversary. It is too late to un-pop and un-celebrate now.

He went on to jokingly ask if Pennsylvania would allow him to celebrate other holidays going forward and if anything that happened in his life in 2013 actually occurred.