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HARRISBURG, PA, July 25, 2013 ( – A spokesman for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has responded to the controversy over a rogue county registrar issuing illegal same-sex “marriage” licenses to homosexuals, saying, “Individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce.”

Pennsylvania law defines marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman, explicitly prohibiting the recognition of gay unions, even those formed in states where the practice is legal.


But on Wednesday, Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes began issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples anyway, saying he wanted to be “on the right side of history and the law.”

Hanes told NBC Philadelphia that the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn part of the Defense of Marriage Act prompted him to act.

“I think the constitution trumps the [state marriage] statute,” Hanes told NBC. “This to me is a fundamental civil right.”

But according to Governor Corbett’s spokesman, Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, the constitution is not on Hanes’s side. “All officials are constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the legislature,” said Hagen-Frederiksen in a statement. “Only the courts have the power to declare a law to be unconstitutional and to suspend its effects.”

At least five homosexual couples obtained illicit marriage licenses Wednesday.

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All could face prosecution under Pennsylvania law, along with the officials who approved them, but so far, the county’s Republican District Attorney does not seem eager to press the issue.

“The remedy for issuing an invalid marriage license does not include intervention by the office of the district attorney,” Montgomery County D.A. Risa Ferman told the Associated Press.

But Ferman admitted that Hanes had overstepped his bounds. “The register of wills cannot change the laws of this commonwealth by simply ignoring them,” Ferman said in a statement. “If that change comes, it will be through Pennsylvania courts or the legislature.”