Gay Marriage in PA: It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over

See Nationwide Round Up Below

By Central Voice

Hell hath no fury like a proposed or scorned marriage equality proposal.

With Pennsylvania nearly encircled by states recognizing same-sex unions, the Keystone State’s battle for marriage equality continues.

“It’s going to take leadership from the top,” state Rep. Mike Fleck told the Associated Press. Fleck is an openly gay Republican representing conservative Huntingdon County.

So far, leadership and rank and file members are at odds.

In the latest round, state Reps. Brian Sims and Steve McCarter, Philadelphia area Democrats, have called on Gov. Tom Corbett to follow NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s lead. On Monday, Christie dropped his court challenge to his state’s legalization of same-sex marriages. Couples began getting married that same day.

Sims and McCarter have sponsored a marriage-equality bill for Pennsylvania against a confusing backdrop of legal challenges.

Currently in Pennsylvania, Corbett is defending the state’s 1996 law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. That move came after Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes issued 174 marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the US Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In a state Department of Health challenge to Hanes’ action, a judge ordered him to “cease and desist from issuing marriage licenses” to gay couples. As the labyrinth legal mess unfolded, some of those couples issued licenses by Hanes have mounted a legal challenge to the state law.

In all, Pennsylvania has at least four pending court cases, including two federal lawsuits, challenging the state’s DOMA.

Adding another layer to the pile of legal proceedings and political maneuvers, Attorney General Kathleen Kane has decided Pennsylvania’s law is unconstitutional. She is not defending it against the current legal challenge.

Kane’s decision has incurred the political wrath of state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who like clockwork introduces anti-marriage equality measures all of which have failed.

Metcalfe wants to have Kane impeached for her refusal to defend the state’s one man-one woman marriage law.

On Monday, Metcalfe began seeking co-sponsorships for a bill that calls for Kane’s removal from office because she is “creating a constitutional crisis by refusing to perform her assigned role and usurping the role of the courts.”

Kane said about his latest move that Pennsylvanians should be “revolted” by the way Metcalfe is thwarting her from doing her job and accuses him of political gamesmanship.

Kane says Metcalfe’s goals are “media attention and political gamesmanship” via “loud, arrogant and misguided claims.” She would prefer Metcalfe’s priorities involved “reforming education, job creation, fixing our transportation system, or making the streets safer for kids and families, and…cleaning up the good ol’ boys’ system of public corruption.”

With all these legal and legislative initiatives flying around, Sims said, “Unfortunately, here in Pennsylvania, where LGBT Pennsylvanians lack even a single LGBT civil right, some members of the Republican Party would sooner be the Republicans of 1955 rather than 2025. It’s unconscionable that Pennsylvanians who get married out of state can still be fired for putting a wedding photo on their desks.”

McCarter called Pennsylvania’s lack of progress on marriage equality “a black eye”.

“Nearly all of our neighboring states have decided to enter the 21st century and grant equality to all their citizens, yet we still are stuck in the Stone Age,” McCarter said. “Plain and simple, the fact that Pennsylvanians can now cross a border and be granted more rights than they currently have in their own state is a problem that needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now.”

Regarding a state constitutional amendment that would allow same-sex couples to get married, a May Franklin & Marshall poll showed that 38% of those surveyed strongly favored while 16% somewhat favored such an amendment.

Thirty-six percent strongly opposed and 7% somewhat opposed a same-sex marriage constitutional amendment.

In a related question, 40% strongly favored and 24% strongly opposed passage of a state law that would allow same-sex couples to form legal civil unions with the same rights as married couples. In other words, fewer poll respondents were against civil unions than marriage.

The highest number of poll respondents, 26%, was from the central region of the state determined by asking county of residence.

Adding nuance to the poll data, Franklin & Marshall pollster Terry Madonna says, “While the poll in May found 54 percent of Pennsylvania voters support gay marriage, 76 percent in the August poll disapproved of granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples when current state law bans it.” He is referring to Hanes disregarding the 1996 Pennsylvania law when he issued 174 marriage licenses following the US Supreme Court’s axing of DOMA.

“Voters seem to be saying that, though we favor gay marriage, breaking the current law to accomplish that objective is not the way to proceed,” Madonna said.”

Ted Martin, Equality PA executive director, an organization among others at the forefront of the battle, says, “Pennsylvanians are ready for a conversation about why marriage matters to all families, and leaders in Harrisburg should be listening.”

Fourteen states, according to Freedom to Marry, allow the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. They include CA, CT, DE, IA, ME, MD, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT, and WA – plus Washington, D.C.

Five states now offer broad protections short of marriage. CO, HI, and IL allow civil union, while OR and NV offer broad domestic partnership. WI has more limited domestic partnership.

With these advances, a record number of Americans live in states that recognize relationships between same-sex couples:

Over 35% of the U.S. population lives in a state that either has the freedom to marry or honors out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.

Over 41% of the U.S. population lives in a state with either marriage or a broad legal status such as civil union or domestic partnership.

Over 43% of the U.S. population lives in a state that provides some form of protections for gay couples.

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