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D. Bruce Hanes, register of wills in Montgomery County, is being sued by The Pennsylvania Department of Health for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Montgomery County, a suburb of Philadelphia, is the only county in Pennsylvania so far to issue the licenses.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning by Alison Taylor, chief counsel of the Department of Health, asking the court for a writ of mandamus —an order by a superior court that demands immediate action from a subordinate — to force Hanes to comply with Pennsylvania law.

Under the Pennsylvania Marriage Law, marriage is a “civil contract by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife.” Hanes, however, decided to “come down on the right side of history and the law,” the complaint said.

Hanes has been issuing marriage licenses since last week and continued to issue them after the lawsuit was filed. In the past week, several same-sex couples in Montgomery County have already married.

According to the suit, one of the consequences of Hane’s actions is that “same-sex couples are left to believe erroneously that they have entered into a valid marriage under the state of Pennsylvania.”

The case against Hanes follows a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania against state officials, demanding that Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban be abolished. In response to the ACLU suit, State Attorney General Kathleen Kane called the prohibition on same-sex marriages “wholly unconstitutional.”

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