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July 29, 2014

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Gay couples rush for licenses in Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA — Same-sex couples clamored for marriage licenses after a Pennsylvania judge's ruling allowed them to join the rest of the Northeast in legalizing their relationships, with Philadelphia offices staying open late to handle a rush of applications.

Couples must wait three days after their application to get married unless a sympathetic judge grants a waiver. Between now and then, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett could appeal and effectively put the ruling on hold, though he didn't quickly indicate whether he would.

Joe Parisi, 30, and Steven Seminelli, 28, live in Philadelphia and were among the first to get a license Tuesday.

"Yeah, we were texting each other from work and just said, all right, we've got to jet out of work and get down here as soon as we can," Parisi said. "We didn't want to take the chance of having this be challenged and missing out on our opportunity."

A torrent of celebration was met by criticism from state Republicans, who as recently as 2012 endorsed a platform defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

"An activist judiciary has substituted its judgment in place of the law created by the elected representatives of Pennsylvania and has stifled the ongoing debate of people with differing points of view," party Chairman Rob Gleason said.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III — a Republican and an appointee of former President George W. Bush — also ordered the recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere as he turned down the ban instituted in 1996 by legislators in Pennsylvania.

Corbett's office was left to defend Pennsylvania's 1996 legislative ban after Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to do so. A spokesman for Corbett's office said it was reviewing the legal issues presented in the opinion.

State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Oregon on Monday became the 18th state to recognize same-sex marriage after a federal judge invalidated its voter-approved ban. Also Monday, a federal judge in Utah ordered state officials to recognize more than 1,000 gay marriages that took place in the two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court halted weddings there with an emergency stay.

And later Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that no same-sex marriages will be allowed or recognized in Idaho until an appeal to a ruling May 13 overturning that state's ban is decided.

If the Pennsylvania decision stands, it would become the 19th state to legalize gay marriage, according to the advocacy group Freedom to Marry. It also would create a bloc of 11 states from Maine to Maryland that allow same-sex marriage, in addition to Washington, D.C.

Associated Press writers JoAnn Loviglio and Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia and Marc Levy in Harrisburg contributed to this report.

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