A little more than a month after a federal judge overturned Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage, the first female couple tied the knot at the Cambria County Courthouse on Thursday.
In a late-afternoon ceremony, the two women from the Ebensburg area told county Judge Norman Krumenacker that they had been together for about 20 years.
Both appeared in dress clothing, and while there were no flowers or family and friends to help celebrate, they did exchange rings as part of the ceremony.
“They had made application to Patty Sharbaugh, the register of wills,” Krumenacker said. “They were a very pleasant couple.”
In the third week of May, Judge John B. Jones III of the U.S. District Court found that it was no longer legal in Pennsylvania to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
That same week, Gov. Tom Corbett announced he would not appeal the decision, meaning that same-sex marriage will remain legal in Pennsylvania without the threat that a higher court will reinstate the ban.
On the day of the decision, Sharbaugh’s office received a few calls, and that same week a few couples filed license applications.
Her staff quickly altered the license requirements, which had said that state law defines marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife.
Krumenacker said he marries between 10 and 15 couples a year, and when he received the request for the same-sex ceremony, he sought assistance from outside the county.
“I reached out to a couple other judges and got copies of their vows,” he said. “I dressed it up and added what I thought was appropriate.”
Krumenacker replaced the traditional “man and woman” with “these two individuals.”
When he asked if anyone could show just cause why the two could not be lawfully joined to speak up, there was no response.
“You must never forget that you are each individuals, and that there can be mutual respect only as long as the individuality of each remains important to the other,” the judge instructed as part of the ceremony.
He included the traditional phrase that the union be for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.
The ceremony concluded with Krumenacker saying: “I do, by the virtue vested in me by the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, here pronounce you partners for life.”
Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.