|According to recent poll results, the overall attitude regarding gay marriages in the state of Pennsylvania has shifted dramatically over the past decade — which seems fitting, as Pennsylvania news stations note that one of the top stories of 2014 pertains to a judge who steadily advocated for gay marriages throughout 2013, ultimately leading to a historic decision in 2014 wherein the state’s prohibition of gay marriages was declared unconstitutional.
The poll, which was issued by Morning Call/Muhlenberg College, asked 500 Pennsylvanians, from late November to early December, how they felt about the state’s acceptance of same-sex marriage. Only 32% of respondents stated that they did not believe gay couples should have the same legal rights given to heterosexual married couples, while 62% of respondents were in favor of legal equality (6% were undecided).
These numbers are pretty significant, considering that just 10 years ago, 54% of Pennsylvanians believed that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed legal marriage rights, while 35% believed that gay marriage should be legalized.
Although the shift in attitudes certainly is dramatic, it comes as no surprise to those who witnessed firsthand what Bruce Hanes, the Register of Wills in Montgomery County PA, did for same-sex couples in 2014.
Even though the four winter months between November and February normally see the highest number of engagements and weddings, once Hanes issued Pennsylvania’s first same-sex marriage license in July of 2013, Pennsylvanian couples were in no mood to wait around for the most “romantic” season of the year. Between July and September 2013 — less than four full months — Hanes issued 174 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the state before Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini prohibited the Register to continue marrying gay and lesbian couples.
But even though Hanes wasn’t allowed to issue additional marriage licenses, that didn’t stop him from advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriages in the state. He quietly battled lawyers from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as well as state Governor Tom Corbett. His hard work finally paid off in May of 2014.
In a landmark court appeal, Hanes convinced U.S. District Judge John Jones III to declare Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited same-sex marriages, to be unconstitutional.
From May 20th, 2014 (the date that Pennsylvania’s DOMA was overturned) to October 31st, Hanes’s office has reportedly issued 248 marriage licenses for same-sex couples — and if the recent Muhlenberg poll holds any truth, the majority of Pennsylvanians are probably hoping to see this number increase exponentially over the next six months.