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Pa. files suit to stop gay marriage permits

PHILADELPHIA — State officials asked a court to stop a rogue county from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on Tuesday, nearly a week after a clerk began granting them in violation of Pennsylvania law.

The petition filed by the Health Department alleges that D. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County, ‘‘repeatedly and continuously’’ flouted the law. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hanes’s office had granted 34 licenses and registered six same-sex marriages.

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‘‘There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from the clerk’s unlawful practice of issuing marriage licenses to those who are not permitted under Pennsylvania law to marry,’’ the lawsuit said.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast without same-sex marriages or civil unions. Hanes began issuing licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage of Act.

Hanes said he wanted to ‘‘come down on the right side of history and the law.’’ He declined to comment Tuesday on the pending litigation.

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