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Pa. officials won't approve same-sex marriages

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Saturday, July 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Nearly four dozen elected officials who oversee marriage licenses in Pennsylvania have pledged not to approve unions for same-sex couples.

In a resolution that was unanimously approved this week during a registers convention in Washington County, the officials said state law clearly prevents them from following the lead of a Montgomery County colleague who has issued a handful of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Marriage licenses in Pennsylvania are issued by the Register of Wills in most counties.

“Should the Pa. Legislature or a court of jurisdiction mandate a change to the marriage license law, we shall faithfully and dutifully follow that law,” the resolution states.

Westmoreland County Register of Wills Michael Ginsburg voted in favor of the mission statement.

Ginsburg said state law, which specifically says legal marriage is between a man and a woman, prevents him from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

“My decision offers no position on the underlying subject matter of this very sensitive issue; rather, it is intended only to clarify my intent to follow the current law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Ginsburg said in a prepared statement.

During an interview, Ginsburg said he supports the existing law.

“I'm a Republican, a right-wing Christian. I'm totally comfortable with what the law is. A marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said.

Officials from two counties, Washington and Bucks, abstained from the vote, said Kirk Sohanage, solicitor for Cumberland County Register of Wills Glenda Farner Strasbaugh, who serves as secretary for the statewide organization.

“They did so because of the pending litigation. Both were named in the lawsuit (over Pennsylvania's marriage law) filed two weeks ago by the ACLU,” Sohanage said.

Washington County Register of Wills Mary Jo Poknis could not be reached for comment Friday. Poknis refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple earlier this year, according to the lawsuit that also named Gov. Tom Corbett as a defendant.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane made news earlier this month when she said she would not defend the state against the lawsuit.

Earlier this week, Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes issued five marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The statewide register's organization approved its resolution the same day those marriage licenses were issued in Montgomery County.

Fayette County Register of Wills Donald Redman did not attend the convention and was unavailable for comment Friday.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293.

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