- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Gay Marriage Part 2: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
This morning’s Metro proclaimed loudly on the front page “Same-Sex Marriage Ban Fails.” That’s great; great for the people of Massachusetts, awesome for the people of New Jersey, it could even be good news for the citizens of Washington State. For me, the victory is bitter-sweet. It looks like for the foreseeable future the religious-right will not be able to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into the Federal Constitution. It is good that the preeminent governing document of this nation will not have an anti-gay clause in it; still, I’m worried.
The day before a very similar vote happened in a very different city. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage and any “legal union identical or substantially equivalent” to marriage (read civil unions). While I am worried that we lost this vote, I’m very concerned with the degree it was lost. The final vote was 137-60; we lost 42 Democrats.
I am surprised on a few levels. The first thing I find surprising is that almost all of Pennsylvania’s Republican caucus in the Assembly is against allowing gays and lesbians to enter civil unions. The second is that half of Pennsylvania’s Democrats are for the same. I don’t believe they are; in fact I believe that most of our legislators are either ignorant on the subject, or think we are. My hypothesis was proven correct when I called to speak with one Democrat representative about the amendment. While he said he would oppose it, he had some sort of idea that we didn’t need to worry about the Pennsylvania amendment because the U.S. Senate just rejected a federal ban on same-sex marriage. Even if the federal government won’t amend its constitution to ban gay marriage, state governments certainly can. Just look at Texas, Alaska, Oregon, Hawaii, Michigan, Alabama, etc. It’s happening here in Pennsylvania and there isn’t a lot we can do.
Maybe not a lot… but a little, and a little is all we need.
The first thing we could do is work to put just one legislative house in Harrisburg under Democratic control. While forty-two Democrats supported this amendment, fifty opposed it. The same thing looks to be happening in Pennsylvania’s Senate. If the Democrats controlled the House for the 2007-2008 session; they could not bring up the amendment at all, effectively killing it. (Read Republicans refusing to allow one-gun-per-month law to come to a vote.) Our best chance of this happening is in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. There are many vulnerable PA House seats in Philadelphia and its surrounding areas. Last month in Chester County, a Democrat won the state senate seat for the first time in 100 years. Taking back a house would be rough, and unlikely, but it’s worth a shot.
The second strategy is to make sure Democrats and moderate Republicans know they will be voting to ban Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships as well as marriage. We would need to get a lot of them in the House to switch their votes next year; thirty-nine to be exact. A more instant action would be to make sure State Senators know about this duel ban. I don’t know how much more “education” will work; I too am tired of “educating” people about basic right and wrong, but too often when I speak to legislators they believe this is a national issue. We are failing as progressives; I am failing as queer, to reach these legislators with what this amendment will really do. Right now the marriage amendment sits in the Senate Judiciary committee with eight Republicans and five Democrats. You can find the members by going to the Pennsylvania Senate’s website.
Regardless of the action that is taken; it needs to happen now. Once this marriage amendment passes, we won’t be able to reverse it in our lifetime. I’m twenty-five years old; that’s a long time to be second-class.