License requests scarce in Blair

HOLLIDAYSBURG – The Blair County Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts reported that only one same-sex couple requested an application for a marriage license on Wednesday, the day after a federal court decision finding Pennsylvania’s ban on such marriages unconstitutional.

But Carol Newman, the director of the office, said the ruling has created interest in same-sex marriages because she and her staff received at least five calls on the subject.

Newman said the first call came in at 3:52 p.m. Tuesday, which would have been just minutes after U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III of Pennsylvania’s Middle District issued a 39-page opinion, in which he concluded “we hold that the marriage laws [banning recognition of same-sex marriage] violate the principles of equal protection and are therefore unconstitutional.”

He permanently enjoined enforcement of the same-sex marriage ban, noting same-sex couples can seek marriage licenses in Pennsylvania, and same-sex marriages in other states will now be recognized in the state.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Corbett issued a statement Wednesday afternoon stating he will not seek an appeal of the Jones ruling.

“Given the high legal threshold set forth by Judge Jones in this case, the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal,” he said.

“As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered. I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

“My duties as Governor require that I follow the laws as interpreted by the Courts and make a judgment as to the likelihood of a successful appeal. The court has spoken, and I will ensure that my administration follows provisions of Judge Jones’ order with respect to all parties,” the statement from the governor’s office stated.

Jones ruled Penn-

sylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. He ruled the fundamental right to marriage is a personal right to be exercised by the individual.

He rejected arguments “that concepts of history and tradition dictate that same-sex marriage is excluded from the fundamental right to marry.”

The Blair County Courthouse was closed Tuesday because of the primary election, so Newman did not listen to the first call for information until Wednesday morning.

Then, members of her staff began to receive additional calls, and that led to a staff meeting to make sure Blair County was in step with the Jones ruling.

Newman called other counties and contacted the solicitor for her statewide association, and by about 10:30 p.m., everybody in her office was informed about the court decision and how to address the novel situation in which the employees now find themselves.

At about noon, the first couple arrived.

The two young women, accompanied by one’s mother, entered the office and requested a marriage license.

The couple were required to fill out applications – a standard procedure.

They were told there was a three-day waiting period because of the upcoming weekend and a Monday holiday, meaning the young couple will not receive their marriage license until Tuesday.

The young women, ages 21 and 22, did not want publicity or their pictures taken, but they were outwardly ecstatic about the court ruling.

Both women are employed, the 22-year-old working for a veterinarian, the 21-year-old stating she was a laborer.

They have been dating for five years and were planning to wed in September – even if they had to go out-of-state to do it.

The 22-year-old supported the federal court decision because now she and her partner have ”equal rights.”

“We want to get married like everybody else,” she said, also noting that the two are already living together.

Both women reported they were treated well in Newman’s office.

Same-sex couples did not exactly storm area courthouses outside of Blair on Wednesday.

While Newman and her staff were expecting additional requests for marriage licenses, only one couple appeared.

Cambria County’s Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds had no applicants. The story was the same in Bedford and Clearfield counties.

Two female couples requested marriage licenses in Centre County.

Newman said her office was taking only applications Wednesday.

Applicants had to be 18 or older. If 16 or 17, the two applicants must have parental permission.

If an applicant is under 16, he or she must have court approval to marry.

Newman was in communication with the Blair County judges because, if she refuses to issue a license, the person has an immediate right to appeal to a judge.

The application forms will have to be revised. Those forms request the name of the “Groom” and the “Bride.”

Other counties, Newman reported, are not using those terms any more, instead designating the parties as “Applicant one” and “Applicant two.”

Otherwise, Newman said, the applications for the same-sex couple were handled in the same way as the application for a man and a woman.

“It looks like everything is the same,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.