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Pa. same-sex couples apply to marry, expect denial

Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review - Mechelle Marafon (right) and Simonetta Marafon, both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, make their way to the Register of Wills Donald D. Redman's office, in the Fayette County Courthouse, to apply for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on February 14, 2014. As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review</em></div>Mechelle Marafon (right) and Simonetta Marafon, both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, make their way to the Register of Wills Donald D. Redman's office, in the Fayette County Courthouse, to apply for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on February 14, 2014.  As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review - Inside the Register of Wills office at the Fayette County Courthouse, Mechelle Marafon (left center) and Simonetta Marafon (far left), both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, speak with Janice Cooper (bottom right), chief deputy, and attorney Jim Davis (right), to apply for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, as Register of Wills Donald D. Redman (center) looks on. As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review</em></div>Inside the Register of Wills office at the Fayette County Courthouse, Mechelle Marafon (left center) and Simonetta Marafon (far left), both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, speak with Janice Cooper (bottom right), chief deputy, and attorney Jim Davis (right), to apply for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, as Register of Wills Donald D. Redman (center) looks on. As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review - Inside the Register of Wills office at the Fayette County Courthouse, attorney Jim Davis (left), and Janice Cooper (center), Deputy Chief, speak with Mechelle Marafon (right) and Simonetta Marafon (not pictured), both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, when the couple came to apply for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on February 14, 2014. As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review</em></div>Inside the Register of Wills office at the Fayette County Courthouse, attorney Jim Davis (left), and Janice Cooper (center), Deputy Chief, speak with Mechelle Marafon (right) and Simonetta Marafon (not pictured), both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, when the couple came to apply for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on February 14, 2014.  As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review - Mechelle Marafon (center) and Simonetta Marafon (left), both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, are greeted by Paula Johnston, regional organizer for 'Marriage Equality for PA and Marriage Equality for USA, at the doorway of the Register of Wills Donald D. Redman's office, in the Fayette County Courthouse, after they were denied an application for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on February 14, 2014. As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review</em></div>Mechelle Marafon (center) and Simonetta Marafon (left), both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, are greeted by Paula Johnston, regional organizer for 'Marriage Equality for PA and Marriage Equality for USA, at the doorway of the  Register of Wills Donald D. Redman's office, in the Fayette County Courthouse, after they were denied an application for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on February 14, 2014. As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review - Mechelle Marafon, right, and Simonetta Marafon, both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, hold hands while fielding questions from the media in front of the Register of Wills Donald D. Redman's office, in the Fayette County Courthouse, after they were denied an application for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on Feb. 14, 2014. As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review</em></div>Mechelle Marafon, right, and Simonetta Marafon, both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, hold hands while fielding questions from the media in front of the Register of Wills Donald D. Redman's office, in the Fayette County Courthouse, after they were denied an application for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on Feb. 14, 2014.  As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review - Mechelle Marafon (left) and Simonetta Marafon, both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, share a kiss in front of the Register of Wills Donald D. Redman's office, in the Fayette County Courthouse, after being denied a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on February 14, 2014. As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review</em></div>Mechelle Marafon (left) and Simonetta Marafon, both of Uniontown and who were married legally in the state of Maryland, share a kiss in front of the Register of Wills Donald D. Redman's office, in the Fayette County Courthouse, after being denied a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania on February 14, 2014.  As expected by the couple, they were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review - Kyle Loewy, of Uniontown, holds a displays support for marriage equality during a peaceful protest in front of the Fayette County Courthouse on Friday, February 14, 2014. The peaceful protest was held to support a couple who were going to be making their way to the Register of Wills office to apply for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania. As expected by the couple, Mechelle Marafon and Simonetta Marafon, both of Uniontown who were married legally in the state of Maryland, were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review</em></div>Kyle Loewy, of Uniontown, holds a displays support for marriage equality during a peaceful protest in front of the Fayette County Courthouse on Friday, February 14, 2014.  The peaceful protest was held to support a couple who were going to be making their way to the Register of Wills office to apply for a marriage license in the state of Pennsylvania.  As expected by the couple, Mechelle Marafon and Simonetta Marafon, both of Uniontown who were married legally in the state of Maryland, were denied a marriage license to legally wed in Pennsylvania, but went through the motion in hopes of bringing awareness to marriage equality.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Heidi Anderson (front left), 37, and Diane Anderson, 43, both of McKees Rocks walk into the Dept. of Court Records at the City-County Building to apply for a Pennsylvania marriage license in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Joining them to request their own Pennsylvania marriage license follow couple Tamala (back right), 49, and Colleen Arbaczewski, 53, both of Finley Township. The Andersons hold a marriage certificate from New York state and the Arbaczewski's were married in Massachusettes. The couples were joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity. Both couples were denied licenses to marry in the Commonwealth.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Heidi Anderson (front left), 37, and Diane Anderson, 43, both of McKees Rocks walk into the Dept. of Court Records at the City-County Building to apply for a Pennsylvania marriage license in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Joining them to request their own Pennsylvania marriage license follow couple Tamala (back right), 49, and Colleen Arbaczewski, 53, both of Finley Township. The Andersons hold a marriage certificate from New York state and the Arbaczewski's were married in Massachusettes. The couples were joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity. Both couples were denied licenses to marry in the Commonwealth.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Heidi Anderson (sitting left), 37, and Diane Anderson, 43, both of McKees Rocks wait in the Dept. of Court Records at the City-County Building to apply for a Pennsylvania marriage license in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Joining them to request their own Pennsylvania marriage license are couple Tamala Arbaczewski, 49, and Colleen Arbaczewski (standing right), 53, both of Finley Township. The Andersons hold a marriage certificate from New York state and the Arbaczewski's were married in Massachusettes. The couples were joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity. Both couples were denied licenses to marry in the Commonwealth.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Heidi Anderson (sitting left), 37, and Diane Anderson, 43, both of McKees Rocks wait in the Dept. of Court Records at the City-County Building to apply for a Pennsylvania marriage license in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Joining them to request their own Pennsylvania marriage license are couple Tamala Arbaczewski, 49, and Colleen Arbaczewski (standing right), 53, both of Finley Township. The Andersons hold a marriage certificate from New York state and the Arbaczewski's were married in Massachusettes. The couples were joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity. Both couples were denied licenses to marry in the Commonwealth.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Colleen Arbaczewski (right), 53, of Finley Township, holds back tears as she and her spouse Tamala Arbaczewski, 49, talk to the media after being denied a Pennsylvania marriage license at the Dept. of Court Records in the City-County Building in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. The Arbaczewski's were married in Massachusettes in 2013. The couple was joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity. Both couples were denied licenses to marry in the Commonwealth.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Colleen Arbaczewski (right), 53, of Finley Township, holds back tears as she and her spouse Tamala Arbaczewski, 49, talk to the media after being denied a Pennsylvania marriage license at the Dept. of Court Records in the City-County Building in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. The Arbaczewski's were married in Massachusettes in 2013. The couple was joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity. Both couples were denied licenses to marry in the Commonwealth.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Heidi Anderson (right), 37, and Diane Anderson, 43, both of McKees Rocks share a kiss after being denied Pennsylvania marriage licenses at the Dept. of Court Records in the City-County Building in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Joining them to request their own Pennsylvania marriage license were couple Tamala Arbaczewski, 49, and Colleen Arbaczewski, 53, both of Finley Township. The Andersons hold a marriage certificate from New York state and the Arbaczewski's were married in Massachusettes. The couples were joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity. Both couples were denied licenses to marry in the Commonwealth.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Heidi Anderson (right), 37, and Diane Anderson, 43, both of McKees Rocks share a kiss after being denied Pennsylvania marriage licenses at the Dept. of Court Records in the City-County Building in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Joining them to request their own Pennsylvania marriage license were couple Tamala Arbaczewski, 49, and Colleen Arbaczewski, 53, both of Finley Township. The Andersons hold a marriage certificate from New York state and the Arbaczewski's were married in Massachusettes. The couples were joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity. Both couples were denied licenses to marry in the Commonwealth.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Allegheny County Coordinator for Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania (ME4PA) Melissa Watson, 24, of South Side, holds a sign supporting same-sex couples applying for Pennsylvania marriage licenses at the the Dept. of Court Records at the City-County Building to apply in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Two same-sex couples who hold marriage licenses in other states but live in Pennsylvania applied and were denied marriage licenses in the Commonwealth. The couples were joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Allegheny County Coordinator for Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania (ME4PA) Melissa Watson, 24, of South Side, holds a sign supporting same-sex couples applying for Pennsylvania marriage licenses at the  the Dept. of Court Records at the City-County Building to apply in Downtown on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Two same-sex couples who hold marriage licenses in other states but live in Pennsylvania applied and were denied marriage licenses in the Commonwealth. The couples were joined by a group of protesters who peacefully protested in the building lobby while handing out Valentine's Day gifts in a showing of solidarity.

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By Aaron Aupperlee and Liz Zemba
Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 11:57 p.m.
 

Holding tight to a bouquet of yellow roses and each other's arms, Tamala and Colleen Arbaczewski asked to apply for a marriage license on Friday in the Allegheny County Office of Court Records.

As expected, the Findlay couple married in Massachusetts in October was denied.

“We'll be back,” said Colleen Arbaczewski, 53. “I will do it again and again and again.”

The women were among same-sex couples in Allegheny and Fayette counties who marked Valentine's Day by attempting to apply for marriage licenses, knowing they would be denied, as part of the “License Our Love” event coordinated by Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania and Marriage Equality USA.

Pennsylvania law prohibits same-sex marriages, though legal experts predict that law soon will be overturned.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a federal ban on gay marriages but left some legal issues unresolved. Since then, gay marriage has become “the most rapidly evolving civil rights issue in the nation's history,” said Duquesne University Law School professor Wes Oliver.

Since December, federal court rulings have overturned bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and this week in Norfolk, where U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled the Virginia statute violated people's equal protection under the law granted by the U.S. Constitution.

In Pennsylvania, a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the state's 1996 law is scheduled for trial in June.

“Activist judges are trying to thwart the will of the people,” said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry. “It's obvious that the left has not been able to have their will at the polls or in the legislature, and now they are attacking marriage through the court.”

A national 2013 Gallup poll said 52 percent of those surveyed would vote for a law to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, and 43 percent said they would vote against it with the remainder undecided. There was a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

About a half-dozen lawsuits related to the issue are pending in Pennsylvania, but legal experts are watching the ACLU suit before U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III in Harrisburg, Oliver said.

“The final result of the litigation in Pennsylvania is foreordained, just as it is in every other state. The only truly open question now is how long it will take for the judicial process to grind to its inevitable conclusion,” said University of Pittsburgh professor John Burkoff.

In Fayette County's Register of Wills Office, the bride wore a white wedding gown with a pink sash, and her wife wore a black suit and red scarf.

Though legally married in Maryland on Jan. 2, Mechelle “Shelly” and Simonetta “Simie” Marafon of Uniontown left the office without the license they sought to have Pennsylvania recognize their union.

“We are doing what we want to do, which is to get awareness out there to other couples that there's hope something will happen,” said Shelly Marafon, 43, who has lived with Simie, 48, a native of Italy, for six years.

Like Kate Barkman in Allegheny County's Office of Court Records, Fayette's Register of Wills Donald Redman said he has to follow the law.

“I don't legislate the law,” Redman said. “We enforce the law.”

Among the reasons same-sex couples seek a sanctioned marriage are the ability to file joint tax returns, to have a say in each other's medical care, and to receive Social Security death benefits, said Paula Johnston, an organizer for Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania.

Aaron Aupperlee and Liz Zemba are Trib Total Media staff writers. Staff writer Brad Bumsted contributed to this report.

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