Dear PA Residents – Please Don’t Rush Into Getting Gay Married

I am so simply exhausted right now that I’m sure this post will be much more flippant than I intend. I’ve been on the phone ALL DAY dealing with media calls and trying to help people get services.  And doing laundry.  And medicating cats. The glamorous life.

So I just read that Montgomery County, Pennsylvania has decided to issue marriage licenses to residents in spite of the fact that they aren’t supposed to to that. You know, because of state law.

Officials in the third-largest county in Pennsylvania have agreed to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite a state law that bans the practice.

D. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County, says he wants to come down “on the right side of history and the law.”

Hanes had been prepared to issue a license Tuesday to two women who contacted him last week.

Here’s the rub – the two women were contacted by the ACLU – you know, the folks challenging the state law in federal court in a carefully planned strategy funded by donations and volunteers and hard work? Apparenty, the ACLU was able to help the women understand that random acts of marriage (or attempted marriage) do not a state strategy make.

So let’s revisit

  1. The ACLU has filed suit in federal court against the Commonwealth on behalf of over a dozen PA residents. We can realistically expect that process to take 3-4 years.
  2. State lawmakers have introduced marriage equality legislation. That’s not gonna help anyone or go anywhere.
  3. Pennsylvania residents who get married to someone of the same gender in another state cannot obtain a divorce in Pennsylvania. They would have to relocate to sever their legal tie.
  4. Same sex couples who adopt are being advised to complete the second parent adoption process regardless of their marital status or state of residency.

The fact of the matter is that to get married, you need to talk with a lawyer and make sure you have your ducks in a row. This is 100 million times more true if you have children involved. Now, if you want to go rogue and start acts of marriage defiance – please have your lawyer call the ACLU first.

Image: EvertB
Image: EvertB

In all seriousness, we have a very critical situation in Pennsylvania – the fact that most of us (nearly 70%) can be fired for being gay or trans (or being perceived as gay or trans.) And most Pennsylvania residents think that’s already been fixed – well, it hasn’t and its going to take a lot of hard on the ground community advocacy to change the law.

A lot of money. It may be more interesting and personally rewarding to throw a marriage equality rally, but that’s resources not being invested to help voters understand why we need HB 300 to protect our jobs, our homes and our families. And that’s a problem.

Think of it this way. You need to spend approximately $1,000 to prepare legal documents for your wedding – power of attorney, wills, etc. Because PA doesn’t recognize your marriage, you have to do that. You then need to spend another $1,000 minimum to cover adoption costs (likely more.)  THEN you pay for your wedding.

If you get married and there’s a major change in how the federal government recognizes marriages like ours (married in DC, living in PA), you’ll need to spend more money – another $300 minimum – to go back to the lawyer and get your paperwork updated. Say for example, there’s a big change in how federal inheritance laws are applied to marriages like ours. If you have a house or property or resources like that, you’ll need to make sure your wills properly reflect that.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Being in a same sex relationship just acquired a much higher price tag. Even for middle class couples who don’t have ginormous estates but do have to think about things like mortgages (and deeds), cars, pension plans, Social Security, etc.

If you lose your job because you are gay, how will you pay for those items?

Cart. Before. Horse.

Don’t get me wrong – this is the necessary cost of progress. But most of us don’t have a spare $2,000-5,000 sitting around. And we have even less to donate to the advocacy and education efforts to GET us our equal rights.

One thing I did today was talk with folks about going public with their stories of discrimination and to a person, they all said “no, I don’t want to lose my job.” That’s very telling.

It doesn’t have to be a competition between marriage or non-discrimination. What good does it do you to have a great job & buy a house, but not be able to marry your partner? What good does it do you to get  married & lose your job when you put a wedding photo on your desk?

The trick is that its our responsibility as a community to make all of this happen. We need to get our friends, neighbors and family members educated and active. Go to meetings, join email list and donate.

The die has been cast – we are on a three prong track

  • Marriage equality in the courts
  • Marriage equality in the state legislature
  • Non-discrimination in the state legislature

Let’s frame those wedding photos with the full force of the law, shall we?


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