Pennsylvania officials on Tuesday took action to stop a county from issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

At least 34 gay couples have received a marriage license since D. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County, announced last week that his office was prepared to issue such licenses in defiance of state law. Hanes said that he wanted to be “on the right side of history and the law.”

In its petition, the Health Department alleges that Hanes has “repeatedly and continuously” flouted the law.

“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 complaint states.

The move came on the same day that Republican Governor Tom Corbett's office announced that it would defend the state's 1996 marriage law in a legal challenge filed by 11 couples in long-term committed relationships plus one widow. The couples are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has filed similar suits in other states, including North Carolina.

Corbett is left to defend the law after Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to do so, saying that she believes the law violates the U.S. Constitution.