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Pa. gay couple marries as Montgomery County defies state ban

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 11:33 a.m.
 

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Two women were wed in a religious ceremony Wednesday morning after getting a marriage license from county officials who defied a Pennsylvania law banning same-sex unions.

Alicia Terrizzi, 45, said that she and Loreen Bloodgood have been together for 17 years and wanted to take the opportunity offered by Montgomery County officials.

“We've been waiting a long time for this,” Terrizzi said. “We're not setting out to be pioneers. We don't think our family is any different than anybody else.”

Terrizzi, a teacher, and Bloodgood, a 40-year-old consultant, live in Pottstown with their two sons.

Montgomery County officials issued two marriage licenses to lesbian couples Wednesday morning, a day after signaling their willingness to do so.

Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state without same-sex marriages or civil unions. In other states that ban same-sex marriage, licenses issued by defiant local officials have later been overturned by courts and the unions voided.

The Pennsylvania ban is being challenged by an ACLU lawsuit filed this month in federal court.

The chairman of the Montgomery County Commission predicted that marriage equality will come to Pennsylvania. “It's a question of how long it will take, and what will be the legal process to achieve it. But we know we will be a part of that,” Josh Shapiro said.

The licenses were issued a day after Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes said he would grant them to gay couples because he wanted to come down “on the right side of history and the law.”

The suburban county is the state's third most populous and considerably wealthier than most. All four women who applied to marry Wednesday have master's degrees, according to their applications. The other license went to Sasha Esther Ballen, 38, and Diana Lynn Spagnuolo, 39, of Wynnewood.

Two women doctors had considered applying for a license Tuesday, but changed course after their lawyer talked to the ACLU, which raised concerns about the alternate strategy, since the unions could be overturned in a court challenge.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, a Republican, did not return phone messages this week about her stance on licenses being issued to same-sex couples.

Shapiro and Hanes are Democrats, as is state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who has announced that she will not defend the state's gay marriage ban. That means that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and his legal team are left to defend the ACLU lawsuit.

The Rev. Craig Andrussier, a nondenominational minister licensed to perform weddings in Pennsylvania, said he married Terrizzi and Bloodgood in a brief ceremony in a park. Only the women and their sons were present, but they have a larger ceremony planned next week with family and friends, he said.

He called Wednesday's ceremony something “they can tell their grandchildren about.”

“I feel great. I feel honored,” Andrussier said.

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