Last fall I was honored to have been reelected as Register of Wills. During my tenure I have reduced the amount of money that is needed to operate my department, digitized many of the processes, and increased efficiency. But what I am most proud of is my contribution to LGBT equality by issuing the first same-sex marriage licenses in Pennsylvania.
Just over two weeks ago, Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order barring state contractors and grant recipients from discriminating based on someone’s sexual orientation. This is the kind of good government all Pennsylvanians deserve.
With your support, we can continue to elect strong, determined Democrats that are ready for any challenge.
D. Bruce Hanes
I just wanted to share some pictures of my fellow row officers and me at our Inauguration.
|County Commissioners, Row Officers and Judges of the Court of Common Pleas|
Me holding my grandson John David while being sworn in as Register of Wills
|Ann Weiss being sworn in as Clerk of Courts|
|Karen Sanchez being sworn in as Controller|
|Dr. Michael Milbourne being sworn in as Coroner|
|Kevin Steele being sworn in as District Attorney|
|Mark Levy being sworn in as Prothonotary|
|Jeanne Sorg being sworn in as Recorder of Deeds|
|Sean Kilkenny being sworn in as Sheriff|
|Jason Salus being sworn in as Treasurer|
|Josh Shapiro being sworn in as County Commissioner|
|Val Arkoosh being sworn in as County Commissioner|
Montgomery County candidate: 'conscience' won't allow her to sign gay marriage certificates
By Margaret Gibbons, Staff writer | Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2015 4:30 am
Republican Sharon Valentine-Thomas and Democrat D. Bruce Hanes are preparing to square off in the 2015 race for register of wills in Montgomery County.
The contrast between the two Montgomery County register of wills candidates could not be more different than their positions on gay marriage.
Under the leadership of two-term incumbent Democrat D. Bruce Hanes, the county became ground zero for same-sex marriage rights. While he personally supported such rights for same-sex couples, his arguments against the state’s prior ban on same-sex marriage were based on legal issues.
In contrast, Republican challenger Sharon Valentine-Thomas is opposed to same-sex marriage.
“I am opposed to gay marriages on religious grounds, and my conscience will not allow me to sign off on marriage certificates for gay couples,” said Valentine-Thomas, an ordained minister who is serving her second term as Pottstown’s mayor. “People should not have to violate their conscience to run or to serve.”
However, Valentine-Thomas emphasized, “I am not an obstructionist and will not force my values on others.”
If elected, she said, she will seek court approval providing her with the same “accommodations” given to Kim Davis, a Kentucky county chief clerk who went to jail for five days for refusing to comply with a federal court order directing her to sign off on marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
Valentine-Thomas said she will ask a state or federal court to allow her deputies to sign off on any gay-marriage certificates.
“We will have to wait and see what happens but the precedent has already been set with Kim Davis,” said Valentine-Thomas when asked what would happen if she did not secure court approval for such an accommodation.
While not keeping her position on gay marriage a secret, Valentine-Thomas said she did not actively promote it because she did not want the campaign to “become bogged down” on one issue.
However, in what she described as an “honest answer” to a question for publication in The Intelligencer’s voters' guide, Valentine-Thomas stated, in part, “My life as a person of faith is not private. My (conscience) is clear and I am ready to serve with the same landmark accommodations afforded to Kim Davis in Kentucky. In principle she has been a forerunner to protect and leverage the capacity of all faiths to serve without violating their own (conscience) in obeying the laws that govern the land. Without unneeded fanfare I encourage the voters to think of a vote on my behalf as a preservation point for protecting the (conscience) of every citizen.”
The county register of wills office last month issued 551 marriage licenses, 19 of which involved same-sex couples, according to Hanes. The office averages about 400 marriage licenses a month, with some 20 percent to 30 percent of those licenses going to same-sex couples, he added.
Hanes, a lawyer by profession, said he did not know the specifics of the “accommodation” provided to Davis or whether similar accommodations, as described by Valentine-Thomas, were available to others or on what grounds they could or would be provided.
“What would happen if someone, citing religious values or conscience, opposed mixed race marriages,” he speculated. “I guess that is a matter for the courts to decide.”
While admittedly a longtime advocate for same-sex marriages, Hanes said his decision in July 2013 to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was based on the law, not on religious beliefs.
Hanes began issuing the same-sex licenses after explaining that his oath of office required him to uphold the state and federal Constitutions that provides equal protection for all. This decision placed him in defiance of a then-Pennsylvania state law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The state subsequently petitioned the Commonwealth Court to shut down Hanes, claiming that he could not unilaterally decide not to uphold the law. The Commonwealth Court agreed, ordering Hanes to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Hanes’ office had issued 174 marriage licenses, 118 of which were used, between July 23, 2013, when Hanes began issuing the licenses, until the office received and complied with the Commonwealth Court order on Sept. 12, 2013.
“This is another difference between myself and Ms. Davis,” said Hanes, a Cheltenham resident. “I complied with the court order, she did not.”
The county solicitor’s office, representing Hanes, appealed that lower court ruling to the state Supreme Court where it was pending when a federal court ruling came down on May 20, 2014, overturning Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages. Then-Gov. Tom Corbett one day later announced that the state would not appeal the federal court decision. This enabled all 67 counties in the state to beginning issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
I am so grateful to the owners of La Pazza, a wonderful bar in Easton, for hosting a fundraiser for my re-election campaign. This is not a big, formal, expensive event - I just want to have a good time with my supporters and celebrate marriage equality. I hope you will consider joining me for this fabulous party; RSVP today. Please click the invitation below for more details. If you cannot attend, please consider a contribution to my campaign.
Just wanted to share my interview with Senator Bob Rovner from last week. Enjoy!
I want to talk about Kim Davis and share my opinion of what has and is happening. In 2014 Kim ran as a Democratic candidate for clerk in Rowan County. She won, and subsequently took the oath of office in January of this year. Following the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges in late June, Davis began denying same-sex couples marriage licenses. Soon after, she begin denying marriage licenses to all couples, rather then issue them to same-sex couples. Four couples that were denied marriage licenses filed a lawsuit against Davis. Judge David L. Bunning of a Kentucky District Court ruled that Davis could not continue her policy of refusing to issue marriage licenses. Davis appealed to the United States Supreme Court, but the appeal was refused.
Davis continued to deny couples marriage licenses until September 3rd, when Judge Bunning ordered Davis and her deputies to appear in court. He found Davis in contempt of court and she was sent to jail. Five days later, she was released with the condition that her deputies issue marriage licenses to whomever wants one and to do so without Davis name on the license.
What Davis did was similar to what I did, but on the opposite moral spectrum. I issued marriage licenses against PA law, and when I was asked to stop, by the court, I complied, where she did not. There is a great article describing the differences between Kim Davis and me in detail, written by Angela Giampolo, entitled, Upholding the Rule of Law: Kim Davis Versus D. Bruce Hanes. I encourage you all to read the article.
I am proud to have fought for marriage equality in Pennsylvania and I am proud that the Kentucky court system defended the rights of same-sex couples.
Please consider donating to my reelection campaign or volunteering.
Other news items:
Many, if not all, of you have heard of Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses. A well respected attorney and advocate for the LGBT community, Angela D. Giampolo, wrote an article in The Legal Intelligencer about Kim Davis and me. It is linked below, and I encourage all of you to read it.
I hope everyone had a relaxing and cool summer. I wanted to update everyone on what I have been doing this summer. When I wasn't working or spending time with my family, I was attending receptions and community events across the county! I had the opportunity to speak to many wonderful people, and I wanted to share some pictures.
I look forward to seeing you around the county this Fall! If you want to volunteer for the campaign click here.
Thank you, Bruce.
KYW Flashback: Montgomery County Starts Issuing Same Sex Marriage Licenses
Marriage rights have come a long way over the past 50 years, but we are not done yet.
In 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States of America decided on the case Loving v. Virginia. The case was about the constitutionality of a Virginia law that stated people who were deemed 'white' and people who were deemed 'black,' could not marry. The Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and that marriage was a basic right of all citizens of this country. In 1987 the Supreme Court also decided on the case Turner v. Safley, where an inmate in a Missouri prison was not allowed to obtain a marriage certificate because the warden deemed it to be a security threat. The Supreme Court's decision said the warden's action was unconstitutional and because marriage is a basic right, inmates have the right to get married in an alternative way.
A few days ago, Kevin Davis, an inmate in a Fayette County, Pennsylvania, prison was denied the right to marry. He was denied by the Superintendent of the prison, Brian Coleman and by the Fayette County Register of Wills, Donald Redman. Coleman would not grant Davis the ability to appear in person at the Register of Wills office to obtain a marriage certificate, and Redman did not provide an alternative to Davis to obtain a marriage certificate.
In Montgomery County, we have an alternative for prisoners. My office sends a representative to the prison to issue a marriage certificate. I have been doing this since I came into office, and I firmly believe that marriage is a right for all.