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Gay couple weds in Pennsylvania

Mon., July 29, 2013

County gives license despite state ban

PHILADELPHIA – A suburban Philadelphia woman who tied the knot with her longtime partner Sunday with a county marriage license despite the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage said it was the day “that every committed couple waits for.”

Dee Spagnuolo, 39, and Sasha Ballen, 38, were married at their Wynnewood home – with their three young children playing roles in the hastily arranged ceremony – after receiving a license from officials in Montgomery County.

“We’re excited – we’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time,” Spagnuolo said by phone as a friend did her hair in the kitchen for the ceremony.

She said, however, that she was grateful to the local officials who granted the license “for deciding that they wanted and needed to be on the right side of history.”

The licenses issued Wednesday in Montgomery County are believed to be the first to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania. A 1996 Pennsylvania law defines marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife, and it says same-sex marriages, even ones entered legally elsewhere, are void in Pennsylvania.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit this month asking a federal judge to overturn the law. But before resolution of the suit, officials in the affluent and increasingly Democratic county signaled that they would grant same-sex licenses.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, a Republican, said Wednesday evening that a same-sex marriage license isn’t legally valid in Pennsylvania, but she said it’s not her place to intervene. Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane, though, has said that she will not defend the ban, leaving any defense to Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s office.

In other states with same-sex marriage bans, licenses issued by defiant local officials have been voided by courts.


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