First Same-Sex Marriage Held in State College
Amidst tumultuous political debate over the legality of same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania, State College had its first known same-sex nuptials in a quiet ceremony held in Mayor Elizabeth Goreham’s home Monday morning.
“It’s almost like a dream come true,” groom Gregory Scalzo said in an interview with StateCollege.com, “Something that you think about and you hear it happening everywhere else, and now it’s become a reality after all these years.”
Scalzo and Joseph Davis, now wed as of yesterday, first met in April 2003. Davis said he first purchased wedding rings for the couple a month after they met. Unlike other same-sex couples who choose to obtain marriage licenses from states where the marriages are legal, Davis and Scalzo did not pursue the opportunity.
Although same-sex marriage remains officially illegal in Pennsylvania, the couple seized the opportunity when the Register of Wills of Montgomery County, D. Bruce Hanes, announced that he would not deny same-sex couples’ requests for marriage licenses. This has since been met with a lawsuit from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to invalidate the licenses, but as of Friday, Montgomery County is reporting that they have issued 135 licenses.
Earlier this month, Mayor Goreham showed her support of Montgomery County’s actions by announcing that she would honor marriage licenses issued by the county.
“If you have a license, I will marry you,” Goreham said at the time.
After reading of Montgomery County’s licenses and Goreham’s willingness to honor and officiate the ceremonies, Davis reached out to the State College mayor. Last week, the couple made the nearly two-hour drive last Thursday from their home in Bushkill, Pa. to Montgomery County’s offices in Norristown, Pa. and obtained their marriage license.
Ultimately Goreham decided not to officiate the ceremony itself following meetings with other borough officials. Doing so could be seen as a violation of her oath of office. However, she has sworn to continue to host the ceremonies until she’s able to preside over them herself, according to the Centre Daily Times. Instead, Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer from State College’s Church of the Brethren presided over the ceremony.
Although Montgomery County now recognizes Davis and Scalzo’s marriage, its legality in Harrisburg and the rest of the state could be decided soon. Along with the Department of Health’s suit against Montgomery County, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania shortly after the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. The suit, which includes a Penn State professor and his partner among the plaintiffs, challenges a 1996 law that not only defines marriage as between a man and a woman but also denies recognition to same-sex marriages performed elsewhere where they are legal. In July, Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that she would not defend the law.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the same-sex marriage debate in Pennsylvania, the newlyweds are optimistic for the future.
“To me I feel like our marriage is real because it was performed here in the state,” said Davis. “Hopefully that will be for everybody.”