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This is a little on the end of “cart before the horse,” but it’s definitely a predictable direction that legislative action can take in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when it comes to dealing with the recent SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. Of course, since the ruling, there has been a flurry of commentaries and stories about potential lawsuits against churches that refuse to sanctify these unions. That problem may not play the same in Pennsylvania as it will in most other states.
The commonwealth already has two forms of marriage licenses available in many counties, because our law permits self-uniting marriage licenses. Enjoy the irony if you like, but that is because of a religious belief – Pennsylvania is the Quaker state, and Quakers do not believe that a human being can stand between God and couple when they enter in a covenant of marriage. Their beliefs only permit people to witness that covenant, so we have marriage licenses that only require signatures of two witnesses. Until 2007, it was possible for a county to refuse to issue those licenses without verifying the religious beliefs of the couple, but now they cannot do that. Anyone can opt for the self-uniting license, if they are willing to pay a little more for it.
Because the difference in price isn’t significant (it’s just $10 more in the City of Philadelphia, for example), same-sex couples in Pennsylvania that might want to sue a church over refusing to sanctify a marriage will be a little difficult. If our legislature would happen to change how people get marriage licenses in the first place, those lawsuits would be impossible to start in the first place.