By John Ostapkovich

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — The American Civil Liberties Union is going to court to end the ban on gay marriage in Pennsylvania.

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The ACLU is representing nearly two dozen people in a federal lawsuit filed in US District Court in Pennsylvania’s middle district (see related story).

Mark Aronchick, an attorney with Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, says the suit plays out of the US Supreme Court’s ruling in the “Defense of Marriage Act” case (see related story).

“If it is true that the federal statute that was challenged in that case was demeaning to the concept of marriage, if it hurts and is harmful to the children of same-sex couples, then surely it’s true here in Pennsylvania with our statute,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

A 1996 Pennsylvania law defines marriage as existing only between a man and a woman, and says same-sex marriages, even if performed legally elsewhere, are void in the Commonwealth.

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Aronchick says he expects the case to take a year to get to trial in Harrisburg, and then another for the inevitable appeal by the losing side to reach the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Maureen Hennessey is one of nearly two dozen plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania case.   Married in heart if not in law for 29 years, her spouse Mary Beth died in May, leaving Hennessey also hurt financially because their marriage was not recognized.

“The point of having this change in Pennsylvania is so it doesn’t have to happen to more people, so that in maybe five years’ time there won’t be same-sex couples who have to go through that stuff,” she said today.

Lawyer Molly Tack-Hooper says stories like Hennessey’s are critical.

“We hope that by having couples like Maureen and Mary Beth tell their stories about how this law has harmed them, we can change some minds,” she said.

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