Schuylkill official won't give up fight against same-sex marriages
POTTSVILLE - Schuylkill County Register of Wills Theresa Santai-Gaffney is not abandoning her fight to have another court review the decision overturning Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriages.
"Traditional families are the backbone of this country," Santai-Gaffney said Thursday in explaining why she wants the May 20 decision not to be the final word on the statute.
Santai-Gaffney said she has been heartened by the support she has received, including letters from 23 state representatives and more than 5,000 emails, and plans to discuss the next steps with her lawyers, who are handling the case without charge.
"We're waiting to discuss our strategy" until the lead lawyer, Randall L. Wenger of the Independence Law Center, Harrisburg, returns from vacation, she said.
Another of her lawyers, James M. Smith, Fleetwood, also said he is not giving up and that all citizens should want the case to be heard on appeal.
"Pennsylvanians deserve to have their time-honored affirmation of marriage, which was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support, preserved and properly reviewed by the appellate courts," he said Friday. "The trial judge's decision invalidating the marriage laws should not be insulated from appellate review. Although (U.S. Supreme Court) Justice (Samuel A.) Alito has declined to issue an emergency stay, (Santai-Gaffney) will explore the remaining avenues for obtaining appellate review of this critical issue of importance to countless citizens in Pennsylvania."
Santai-Gaffney started her battle after U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, a Pottsville resident whose main chambers are in Harrisburg, declared the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
State Attorney General Kathleen Kane had declined to defend the law in court and Gov. Tom Corbett, whose office had backed the law, declined to appeal Jones' ruling.
Jones ruled on June 18 that Santai-Gaffney had no standing, or right, to appeal his ruling, a decision the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on July 3.
On Wednesday, Alito declined to stop Jones' ruling from going into effect. Santai-Gaffney does have the right to ask another justice to allow her appeal to be heard.
"We adjust our sail to weather the storm but we cannot lose sight of the destination," Santai-Gaffney said.
That destination is to have Jones' May 20 ruling reviewed, she said.
"There are ways to change laws, and it's not by one person," Santai-Gaffney said.
She said her battle is not costing taxpayers a cent, since the lawyers are working for free.
"I would never put the burden on the county," Santai-Gaffney said.
She also said she has no plans to resign and, if she is unsuccessful, will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"I took an oath to follow the law and continue to do so," Santai-Gaffney said.