NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- At least five same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses Wednesday in a suburban Philadelphia county that is defying a state ban on such unions.
Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood, of Pottstown, were the only couple to marry right away, exchanging vows in a park before a minister and their two young sons.
"We're not setting out to be pioneers. We don't think our family is any different than anybody else," said Ms. Terrizzi, a 45-year-old teacher. "We've been waiting a long time for this."
The licenses issued Wednesday in Montgomery County are believed to be the first to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania, the only northeastern state without same-sex marriages or civil unions.
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 seeking to overturn the law.
Officials in the affluent and increasingly Democratic county signaled this week that they would nevertheless grant licenses to same-sex couples.
The county officials and the same-sex couples who marry could find themselves in court if Republican Gov. Tom Corbett or other state officials challenge their actions. In other states with same-sex marriage bans, licenses issued by defiant local officials have been voided by courts. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, a Republican, said Wednesday a same-sex marriage license wasn't legally valid under existing Pennsylvania law but "the remedy for issuing an invalid marriage license does not include intervention by the office of the district attorney."
"The register of wills cannot change the laws of this commonwealth by simply ignoring them," Ms. Ferman said. "If that change comes, it will be through Pennsylvania courts or the Legislature."
Mr. Corbett's spokesman declined immediate comment.
"Today I feel like a full citizen," said Marcus Saitschenko, 52, of Philadelphia, who came to the suburban courthouse with his partner of 22 years, James Goldstein. "We're just hoping that the state will recognize it."
The licenses were issued a day after the county's 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." Mr. Hanes said he studied the state constitution and the recent Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act before deciding last week to grant same-sex licenses.
"I think the constitution trumps the [state marriage] statute," Mr. Hanes said. "This to me is a fundamental civil right."
Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, said he believes the licenses were the first same-sex marriage licenses ever issued in the state.
Bruce Castor, a Republican county commissioner and former prosecutor, said he urged Mr. Hanes not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane said she will not defend the state's gay marriage ban, leaving Mr. Corbett and his legal team to defend the ACLU suit.