MERCER COUNTY —
Two men from Stoneboro were the first-ever applicants for a same-sex marriage license in Mercer County, applying minutes after the Register of Wills office opened Wednesday morning.
A statewide ban on gay marriage was overturned Tuesday by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who said the 1996 ruling was unconstitutional. The ruling went into effect immediately.
Kathy Kloos, Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court, said she’s had inquiries before, but Matthew Barbour and Jason Roberts, both of 149 Barbour Road, Stoneboro, were the first couple to show up at the courthouse for a $45 marriage license.
The forms the county uses don’t accommodate same-sex marriage requests yet, she said, and that may be something the county has to change with its vendor.
“So for now, we’re calling them Applicant 1 and Applicant 2,” she said.
Kloos said she was immediately aware of Tuesday’s ruling, but the initial suggestion from the state solicitor overseeing her office, David Cleaver of Harrisburg, was that applicants be denied until the decision goes through a likely appeal process.
“But President Judge (Thomas R.) Dobson came down and told me that we absolutely must abide by this federal court ruling,” she said.
She said her office has received numerous calls from other areas, including some from Ohio counties, asking if couples can apply in Mercer County. While there is no residency requirement to apply for a marriage license, she couldn’t say whether the marriage would be recognized in their home state.
Couples who want a license are required to provide photo identification, be older than age 18 and if they were previously married must provide a copy of a divorce decree.
After the three-day waiting period, a license is issued and is valid for 60 days.
She said she’s been in touch with other counties and they have reported multiple same-sex marriage license applications.
“It will be interesting to see what happens if an appeal is filed. Of course we’ll stay current on whatever rulings are made,” she said.
Efforts to reach Barbour and Roberts, both in their 30s, were unsuccessful.
Family members who were contacted said they were surprised by the news and said they had no contact information for either man.
They did speak to WKBN, Youngstown, which posted on its website that they plan to marry June 2.
Gov. Tom Corbett announced Wednesday that he would halt his court fight because “the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal.”
The governor’s decision means that same-sex marriage will remain legal in Pennsylvania, without the threat that a higher court will reinstate the ban.
Corbett’s decision goes against the Republican governor’s personal beliefs.
He opposes same-sex marriage and supported thus-far unsuccessful efforts to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.