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Two Penn couples received same-sex marriage licenses from D. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County, before he was forced to stop issuing them. One Penn employee and graduate who received a license is currently involved in a same-sex marriage lawsuit against the state.

The protestors had already gone home for the day when Marion Leary and her partner reached the courthouse to register for their marriage license.

Leary and her partner of 10 years — who live in Philadelphia — took a wrong turn driving to Montgomery County and arrived after the religious protesters and media who had flocked to the courthouse left. With little fuss, they were able to obtain a marriage license from D. Bruce Hanes, the Register of Wills who had started granting marriage certificates to gay couples in late July.

“It was nice to meet him. Everyone could not have been more supportive,” Leary, the assistant director of clinical research at Penn’s Center for Resuscitation Science, said.

Related: ICYMI: Same-sex marriage fight in Pa.

Leary and her partner registered for a marriage license in Montgomery County as soon as they became available in the summer.

However, the two did not use the marriage license from Montgomery County. Instead they will be legally married this week in Delaware, on the 10th anniversary of their commitment ceremony.

They registered for the license in Pennsylvania to show their support. “We decided we wanted to show our support for Montgomery County and do a bit of civil disobedience,” Leary said. In addition, while gay marriage is legal in Delaware, it is still illegal in Pennsylvania. Hanes was recently sued by Gov. Tom Corbett’s Office of General Counsel for granting the licenses to gay couples.

Gay couples are also fighting back. On Sept. 25, 21 gay couples — who married in Pennsylvania with marriages licenses filed in Montgomery County — filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the commonwealth’s law which currently bans same-sex marriage.

Related: Tax status complicated for same-sex couples

Elaine Spangler is another Penn community member involved in the fight for gay marriage. A 2002 Penn graduate and a project manager at Penn’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, she is currently involved in a lawsuit about this issue. Spangler makes the argument that not being able to marry puts gay couple at a disadvantage when it come to their health.

“The laws that many of us are fighting for involve bad things happening. And at your most vulnerable time in your life, (sickness, death, nursing home decisions, deciding to adopt or have a child), having to fight agencies, insurance companies and hospitals, is the last issue you want to have to fight,” she said in a statement.

Spangler and her partner Mary Beth also registered for a marriage license in Montgomery County.

On her part, Leary runs a social media campaign called Commonwealth Equality, where people post photo messages declaring their support for gay marriage. Leary and her partner took a photo at the courthouse for Commonwealth Equality’s Facebook page.

Leary believes that many people taking action or expressing support in small ways, like attending a rally or registering for a license in Montgomery County, will advance marriage equality.

“We see the accumulation of little steps … make a movement,” she said. “The bigger impact comes when more and more couples take a stand.”

Related: Penn ends tax offset for same-sex married couples

Both Spangler and Leary believe that gay couples will eventually be able to marry in Pennsylvania.

“I know that gay marriage will prevail in the future in PA,” said Spangler in the statement. “My concern is the time it will take. Will it take 2 years? Some have suggested 7? What happens to the unlucky families who go through a life changing event in the meantime?”

“We’re two grown adults who love each other and want to get married. We should be able to do that,” Leary added.

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