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US: Pennsylvania judges refusing to perform all marriages after court ruling

Nick Duffy June 18, 2014
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A number of judges in Pennsylvania have stopped performing marriages altogether, following the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Pennsylvania following a ruling by Judge John Jones on May 20.

It was cemented as law when the state’s Governor, Tom Corbett, refused to appeal.

However, following the ruling, York County – which has 19 district judges in total – has just four judges remaining who are willing to perform marriages.

State law gives district judges – along with mayors and clergy – the power to perform marriages, but they are not required to perform ceremonies, and are within their rights to stop entirely.

Art Heinz, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said: “It is an option to them, they are not required.

“People are authorized to perform the ceremony. If they choose not to, that’s their choice.”

Three of the judges who have stopped told the York Dispatch that they stopped performing marriages because the issue was too controversial.

A fourth claimed that he had stopped performing marriages due to ‘reduced office hours’, though he admitted his religious beliefs would prevent him marrying gay couples.

A further six judges who have stopped either declined to comment or could not be reached.

Springettsbury District Judge Barry Bloss Jr said: “My mind was made up that if [gay marriage] was going to be allowed, we were going to eliminate [marriages].”

“We are supposed to be non-political due to the nature of our jobs and this puts us in a political position.

“If I were to do a same-sex wedding, some voters would be against it. If I chose not to, it would upset those who support it.

“Politically, it’s too much of a hot potato, truthfully. And we’re supposed to avoid those.”

Windsor District Judge John Fishel said: “Part of the public believes in it and part of the public doesn’t and the only way to avoid the controversy is not to do it.

“I have absolutely no objection to the rights of same-sex partners at all, but at the same time I don’t want to get involved in the decision or taking sides.”

Related topics: Civil partnerships, equal marriage, gay marriage, gay wedding, judges, lesbian marriage, lesbian wedding, marriage, marriage equality, Pennsylvania, same sex marriage, Same-sex wedding, US, wedding

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