OK, on the one hand we have the “marriage protection” amendment that would embed discrimination in to the Pennsylvania Constitution. Been there, tried to do that.
Today comes word that another Pennsylvania Senator plans to introduce a marriage equality bill.
Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, today announced plans to introduce a bill that would offer “full and equal marriage rights to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania.” The measure also would recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.
“There has never been a more propitious time for Pennsylvania to embrace equality and enshrine the civil right of all Pennsylvanians to marry,” Mr. Leach said.
But don't tell that to Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair. He wants to strengthen Pennsylvania's 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as only permitted between one man and one woman.
Mr. Eichelberger has a bill to amend the state constitution to define marriage as only allowable between one man and one woman. He thinks that would make it more difficult for an “activist court” decision to overturn the 1996 law.
Before you raise the religious infringement argument, please note that Senator Leach's legislation would not require any religious group or organization to recognize or perform marriages which they “don't sanction.” No word from Diane Gramley and the American Family Association of Pennsylvania on this newest twist in Pennsylvania equality efforts.
Wow. I am very curious as to how this will play out. The argument against the “marriage protection” amendment has been the Pennsylvania DOMA which prohibits same sex marriages. In other words, the existing law was good enough to “protect” opposite sex marriage so no need to amend the Constitution. That's no longer absolutely true.
Will this move force socially conservative legislators to move to the right in support of the amendment or to the middle in support of neither bill (and perhaps to pass the less scary HB 300 as no one has argued that housing protections will destroy heterosexual marriages — yet)? Will this galvanize the progressive wing of Pennsylvania and create a surge of grassroots energy to move the Commonwealth closer to equality for all citizens? I'm fairly certain it will galvanize the wingnuts, but the trifecta of state legislation might just divide their energies as folks pick their poison to speak.
I had a conversation with the President of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats who continues to urge concerned citizens to schedule face to face meetings with their legislators. That is the single best tool you have to push for full equality.
There's a lot on the table — the two anti-discrimination bills, the pending hate crimes bill, the anti-gay “marriage protection” and now this effort to promote marriage equality. This is an important time to take action. Make a Pride resolution to add a few hours of meeting time to your celebration time.
Remember, Stonewall was about standing up and fighting back against oppression and discrimination. Celebrate the spirit by being part of the solution.