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Landmark gay marriage hearing approaches in Pennsylvania

BY MARK SCOLFORO, ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- For two months, an elected court clerk in the Philadelphia suburbs has been giving something to same-sex couples they have not been able to get anywhere else: a Pennsylvania marriage license.

Now a court has to decide whether the clerk has singlehandedly added Pennsylvania to the growing list of states that formally sanction same-sex marriages or whether he has been acting illegally and must be stopped.

Wednesday's hearing in Harrisburg pits Gov. Tom Corbett's Health Department against D. Bruce Hanes, Montgomery County's register of wills, who issues marriage licenses as part of his duties as clerk of the county orphan's court.

Hanes began giving marriage licenses to gay couples in late July, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Pennsylvania is the only Northeastern state that has neither gay marriage nor civil unions, but the legality of the more than 150 such licenses Hanes has handed out remains an open question.

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