It is back. According to Equality Advocates, the legislation to start the constitutional amendment process roared back to life on Valentine's Day.
Just yesterday, SB 1250, the “Marriage Protection Amendment,” was published and referred to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate. There are 17 co-sponsors, the same number as last time. Four Republican Senators who co-sponsored similar legislation last time, are NOT co-sponsoring it this time around. Also, last time around, there were no Democrats as co-sponsors and this time there are two.
This legislation would embed anti-gay marriage protections into the constitution of our Commonwealth by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Pennsylvania, as you may recall, has existing legislation which does that very thing and there are no attempts on the horizon to challenge that legislation. To my knowledge.
We had a bitter struggle over this in 2006. Many Southwestern Pennsylvania Democrats in the House voted in favor of the amendment. The Senate did some fancy footwork by introducing a watered-down version of the amendment (would not outlaw civil unions), counting on the fact that the Repubs would never go for it and they were right. So everyone walked away claiming they voted for it and against it. It all boils down to the fact that very few of our legislators were willing to publicly stand up against discrimination and homophobia.
Fast forward to 2008. Legislation in the House and the Senate to expand the Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender presentation are gaining momentum and co-sponsors. Pittsburgh elects an openly gay City Councilperson. PA Human Relations Commission Chair Steve Glassman, an openly gay man, is reappointed in spite of attempts by the AFA of PA to oppose the appointment. Philadelphia is not allowing tax payers to foot the rent for the openly discriminatory Boy Scouts. Presidential candidates participate in a televised debate sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign.
We have made progress. We cannot afford to let this push us back to the “I voted for it because I was against it” political survival mentality.
Here's the sponsorship breakdown, courtesy of Equality Advocates. I've noted the Western PA folks and the two Democrats. Note that no Democrats supported this legislation last time it was in the Senate. Let's ask ourselves who is making the most contacts in those districts.
Brubaker Musto (D), Gordner, Scarnati, Kasunic (32nd – Fayette, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland counties AND a D),
Armstrong, Corman, Eichelberger, Folmer, Regola (39th – Westmoreland Co.) Madigan, Robbins (50th – Mercer and Crawford counties), Piccola,
Waugh, Rhoades, Punt and Wonderling
The good news is that four co-sponsors last time around have opted to NOT co-sponsor the legislation this time.Three of those individuals are from Western Pennsylvania. If you live in their districts, call them or email them and affirm that decision, asking them to focus on issues more important to your district than marriage protection overkill. Tell them about the economy and health care and road infrastructure and taxation issues that are having a real impact on your family right now.
The 4th individual is Senator Rafferty from the Berks County region.
So, three Western Pennsylvania Senators have opted not to participate in a fear-driven attempt to scapegoat homosexuals while residents of Pennsylvania struggle with actual problems like the Birmingham Bridge suddenly breaking or the inability of multiple rich people to get a decent grocery store into an urban, predominantly African-American community or the shooting death of two teenagers due to gang violence. Oh hey, how about this one — the media is filled with analysis on how to help mentally ill people stop killing college students, but once again there's no cost of living allowance in the state budget for mental health providers. Nice. How about fixing that little problem?
Truth be told people, your family is much more likely to drive across a failing bridge and fall to the river below than to suffer a single consequence of my relationship with Ledcat. Hey, we are actually going out to spend money buying a new vacuum cleaner today — we are putting money into the economy. Isn't that what all good citizens should be doing? Then, of course, we'll come home to modify it as part of our plan to destroy our neighbors' marriages – oh, wait a minute, we live by two single mothers, an unmarried hetero couple, a single man, a widow, a grandma raising three grandkids and a gay couple. Well, there goes that plan.
Here's the final rundown of what you need to know and what you can do about it. The legislation is in the Judiciary Committee. There are several local Senators sitting on that committee. If you live in their districts, please pick up your phone and ask them not to vote this legislation out of Committee (see all reasons above).
Senator Jay Costa is the minority chair. Senator Wayne Fontana sits on this committee. Senator Stout (Washington County) sits on this committee. Senator Earll from Erie County sits on this committee. Senator Orie sits on this committee.
Equality Advocates should have a link up by the end of the day Monday so you can just click and email. Be careful when forwarding email alerts because they sometimes contain your personal information — I discovered that when I clicked a link someone sent me last time and her address popped up in the “auto-fill” box on the webpage.
In summary, please take action in these ways. The links take you to contact information for each Senator.
1. If your Senator co-sponsored the legislation, please contact them and share your displeasure.
2. If your Senator sits on the Judiciary Committee, please contact them and ask them not to vote the legislation out of committee.
3. All others, contact your Senator and ask them to vote against the legislation.
More scripts and talking points will be coming. But I trust that you, homo and hetero alike, can eloquently identity at least three or four other issues that are more immediately pressing for your family (especially the voters!) than defending heterosexual marriage.
Please don't wait for someone else to make the call.