Senator Daylin Leach, author of Pennsylvania's Marriage Equality legislation, will debate Senator John Eichelberger (R- Blair County), author of the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" this Friday on Philadelphia's WHYY at 10 AM.

Recently, I introduced Senate Bill 935, a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. S.B. 935 would allow our state to join ranks with our neighbors in Washington D.C., Maine, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and New Jersey by offering full and equal marriage rights to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania.


While the bill would not require religious institutions to perform any marriage ceremonies or recognize any marriages that they do not wish to sanction, my legislation would dissolve all of the barriers to building families that gay and lesbian couples currently face, both at the state and federal level.  


Also quite recently, my colleague Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, introduced an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would more strictly define marriage and essentially ban same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth.


No matter which side of the issue you agree with, both Sen. Eichelberger and I invite you to tune into WHYY Radio on Friday June 19th at 10 a.m. when he and I will debate the issue. Host Marty Moss-Coane will serve as the debate moderator. I am excited to share my views on the subject with you as we bring this important issue to the forefront of discussion in our state.


Sen. Eichelberger and I hope that many of our constituents, supporters and people who want to learn more about both sides of the issue will tune in on Friday.


?I always look forward to a good debate and am excited about this venue with my friend Senator Leach,? Eichelberger said.

The debate will air on the program, Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane. Internet listeners can tune in here to listen live.

Senator Leach's legislation has been hailed by some LGBTQ advocates as a step toward equality.  Others view the timing with skepticism, especially worried about the inevitable rightwing backlash harming HB 300 which would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender presentation. HB 300 advocates are working fervishly around the Commonwealth to bolster support for the legislation viewed as a necessary next step to securing economic and family stability for LGBTQ persons and their families.

Leach recently met with LGBTQ couples from the Pittsburgh area to share his view that a marriage equality bill will spur the sort of discussion on fairness that can only help HB 300 attract legislators who want fairness for their residents even if they wrestle with marriage equality. 

My opinion?  The discussion will be interesting and certainly worth having.  It is somewhat exciting to have dueling bills, but I urge you to take your excitement and channel it into the work we need to attend to here and now.  The Allegheny County hearing on the Human Relations Ordinance will be July 1, 2009 -- be there.  The work on HB 300 continues on -- get excited and get involved.  Your 10 minute visit with your state legislators to talk about your life and make gay people real to them is invaluable and our best weapon in this battle.  See my recent write up on the presentation of Sue Frietsche from the Women's Law Project for more on how why you should must get involved.

I believe Senator Leach means well and I applaud him for taking a bold step, but let us not forget that our stalwart champions and allies have been working tirelessly on these issues in Harrisburg for years.  As we've learned from President Obama in recent days, we must put our confidence in track records rather than podium promises.  I'm certainly not suggesting Senator Leach is anything less than genuine, but his staff will need to work closely with Western Pennsylvania advocates to learn the "gay" of the land to achieve sustainable progress for Pennsylvania's LGBTQ community.  We are a blue collar, socially conservative, parochial part of the state where many, many semi-openly gay individuals sing in the Catholic choir and define themselves as anti-choice.  Many of the more progressive queers are not affluent liberals from the Southeast regions -- they are working class folks who are very concerned about health insurance coverage and finding decent housing and medical decision making. We don't fit any one mold and the nuances are very important to understand.

Tune in to WHYY on Friday (or check out the podcast when it is archived) for insight into this intriguing dialogue.