PA at Embarrassing Standstill on Gay Marriage

By Jon Campisi
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 17 | Posted Jul. 6, 2011

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As the list of states legalizing gay marriage continues to grow—it’s currently legal for same-sex couples to marry in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York (which passed its legislation on June 24), D.C. and Vermont—Pennsylvania is stuck in a gay-rights legislative battle.

In one corner, House Bill 1434, introduced May 2 by Butler County Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, would amend the state constitution to define marriage as an act between one man and one woman. “The institution of traditional marriage has never been under greater attack,” warned Metcalfe in a news release announcing his legislation. The bill currently sits in committee, though a proposal outlawing gay marriage already failed once.

On the other side of the ropes sits Senate Bill 461, a gay-marriage bill sponsored back in February by state Sen. Daylin Leach, (D-17). “The current state of the law is a state of inequality,” says Leach, whose aim is to bring Pennsylvania in line with the other more progressive states. “It’s time to begin that conversation here.”

Leach predicts that New York’s legalizing of same-sex marriage will have a major impact on how things progress in other states from this point forward. “I think New York will be that tipping point,” he says. “They [other states] will see the one thing that happens when same sex marriage is legalized, which is nothing. There will be no adverse impact on straight couples. The only thing that will happen is that gay people will be happier and more financially secure and better able to raise their families.”

As for Pennsylvania, Leach says it’s a case of “wait and see.” He notes that Pennsylvania can’t hold out forever. “We’re effectively going to be surrounded by states that recognize same-sex couples. It becomes harder and harder for us to be this outlier in the Northeast.”

In the meantime, there’s another bill in the state House awaiting committee action: HB 708, introduced by Philly Rep. Mark Cohen, (D-202), which would allow for civil unions.

Ted Martin, executive director of the gay advocacy group Equality Pennsylvania, married his partner of more than 10 years in California in 2008 and says the fact that his nuptials aren’t recognized in Pennsylvania is troubling. “There’s no legitimate basis, there’s no founding basis—other than the genders are different—to deny people that basic right,” Martin says. “All we’re asking for is to be recognized by the state.”

Of those states that have legalized either gay marriage or civil unions, Martin says, “The world has not ended. They have their ceremony and they just go on living.” In a recent press release responding to Metcalfe’s attempt to solidify heterosexual marriage as the only legal form of matrimony in Pennsylvania, Martin cites stats indicating that Pennsylvanians probably wouldn’t be that opposed to gay marriage. “An overwhelming 63 percent think gay couples should have all the legal rights that married heterosexual couples do,” Martin writes.

Indeed, an April 2011 poll by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling found that 33 percent of Pennsylvania voters believe gay couples should be allowed to enter into civil unions, while another 30 percent support full marriage equality. “I think in general, across the country … people are beginning to realize that allowing same-sex couples to marry does not end the world,” says Martin.

Chris Gatesman and Peter Holtz, a gay couple from Mechanicsburg, Pa., who have been together for 28 years, are disenchanted beyond belief about Pennsylvania’s lack of progression on same-sex marriage. They recently attended their 31-year-old daughter’s wedding, (she is Gatesman’s biological offspring), but can’t have a wedding of their own despite having been together for nearly three decades. “For so many Americans, it’s not really an option,” Gatesman says of gay marriage.

Still, he holds out hope that things will change. “My general feeling is pretty optimistic,” he says, adding that when he and his partner first got together, “it wasn’t even anywhere on our radar to think that we could get married. It was very different back then. Now, I’m amazed where we are and the conversations that are happening in our country.”

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Adrian Shanker and Brandon Pariser. They’re young, 24 to be exact, and have only been together two years. But the two Lehigh Valley men are equally impassioned about the prospect of someday being allowed to marry. “It is a civil-rights issue,” Shanker says. “We already have the ability to love who we want to love. That’s not up for discussion.”

The two support any movement toward equality, although they would prefer to see a marriage bill as opposed to civil unions. “We’ve already seen separate but equal in this country,” Shanker said. “We’ve seen how it doesn’t work.”

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Comments 1 - 17 of 17
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1. Joseph said... on Jul 6, 2011 at 01:55PM

“PA is a horrible state. Quite honestly, the best possible solution to ensure that every various group of people who live in the state gets what they really want is to break up the state into 3 parts. It can be Philadelphiopolis in the east, North Alabama in the middle, and Just Pittsburgh in the west.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jul 7, 2011 at 09:22AM

“@Jordan -- so what you are saying is that basically Gays getting married doesn't matter enough to fight for? If PA were to allow gay marriage, perhaps that would make it easier to fight discrimination and bullying. People discriminate and bully those who they see as weaker or less of a person because they don't have the same rights. There was a time when black people were discriminated against and bullyed... not being allowed to have the same rights as white people. We've come a long way from that. I would hope that someday gay men and women will just be considered another race and not anything more.”

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3. Mike said... on Jul 7, 2011 at 09:50AM

“Wanting to copulate with someone of your own sex is not the same as copulating with someone of the opposite sex. You can't have a baby through homosexual acts. The fact that you claim to love a same sex partner in the same way a heterosexual couple loves each other can never overcome this fundamental difference. Therefore, you're not the same, and therefore, you're not equal.”

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4. Retro Modern said... on Jul 7, 2011 at 11:24AM

“Many married heterosexual couples have sex without the intent of procreation. Maybe heterosexual couples should only be allowed to marry if they sign a contract promising to procreate. Also, I pay taxes just like heterosexual couples. I guess the government thinks my money is equal to heterosexual couples.”

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5. Teri said... on Jul 7, 2011 at 01:15PM

“Two things: Do you have any idea how many infertile couples use other methods to try and "create" a child to love and nurture. How many adopt ? Lots of Gay couples could provide loving and nurturing hones to kids who may otherwise end up "on the street", passed from one foster home to another, etc. etc. Use your intellectually abilities and you heart and realize that there is everything to gain for our society and nothing to loose by treating all loving committed couples with love and respect and fairness.”

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6. shallotry said... on Jul 8, 2011 at 12:15AM

“Mike, by that logic, I presume you are opposed to marriage between men and women who are beyond their childbearing years?”

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7. Michael said... on Jul 8, 2011 at 07:23AM

“@Mike: Try taking a class or 3 in Psychology. Failing that, you can even dissect the brain six ways to Sunday and still see that gays & lesbians love their partner the same way as hetero people do -LOVE! It's an emotion, and we have emotions too, Einstein.

1) There are oodles of healthy, stable (and financial secure!) LGBT couples that would offer the perfectly loving, nurturing environment to children that is sorely absent so often.
2) It's been proven time and again that children of gay parents don't necessarily grow up to be gay (try a Google search!).

But as long as kids get raised by the State and straight people still *try* to get married despite the 50% divorce rate and mothers get away with killing their kids, that'd still be more beneficial to our society, right? A-hole....”

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8. Rizz0 said... on Jul 10, 2011 at 03:50PM

“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is Great!!!
People go to a bar and hash things out. Like the founding fathers.
Same Sex marriage is fine.
Psychology classes are over rated.
be loving, there is always someone bigger, badder and smarter.

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9. Mike said... on Jul 12, 2011 at 09:04AM

“To the person who proposed that heterosexual couples who are beyond childbearing years should not be able to marry. That argument is silly. Even if a heterosexual couple is beyond childbearing years, at least they are still heterosexual. And to the person who pointed out that many heterosexual married couples have sex with contraception, that is morally wrong too.”

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10. CriminallyInsaneMinx said... on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:42AM

“Love Rizzo's comment. I'd like to just quote from ancient film lore, "....Live and let live."

I may be single, and loving it but what's equal rights for all includes us gays, queers, homos, fags, trans, bi.........whatever epithet anyone chooses to use.

Taking a trick from the African American Community here: Your words are just words. They don't hurt me. I know that what matters is the content of my character not the lable assigned to me by someone who fears me.”

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11. marriage advisor said... on Nov 23, 2011 at 02:09AM

“There are insightful articles for normal marriage couple also in Indonesia come and visit”

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12. samesexmarriagehater said... on Mar 29, 2012 at 04:03PM

“I hope same-sex marriage doesnt get approved in Pennsylvania. It's bad enough same-sex marriage even exists not alone actually being passed as a law. Homosexuality is sin, ungodly, unnatural, unscientific, immoral...regardless of who they love...God's Bible says "Be not deceived: neither the sexually immoral, neither idolators, nor effeminate, nor HOMOSEXUAL offenders will inherit the kingdom of heaven" (1 Corinthians 6:9). God said it...not me! I'm just repeating what He said. Why is everyone for same-sex marriage? What is the hype here? Two men DO NOT belong together. Period. Two women do not belong together. Period. End of discussion.”

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13. Anonymous said... on May 11, 2012 at 07:15AM

“Pa needs to stay strong and continue to oppose same sex marriages. Passing a law that promotes sin is just another example of a world that is losing God. People wonder why the world has gone to heck well the answer is simple. We are losing God. All these people claim to be Christians but they want to pick and choose which parts of His word they want to believe in. A true Christian recognizes their sins and repents and prays for the strengnth not to repeat it. They don't rationaize it and pretend its not a sin.”

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14. Anonymous said... on Aug 12, 2012 at 10:30PM

“This world needs to lose god. Then we could focus on actual issues rather than fight wars over whose god is better or debate whether or not everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Those of you using the bible as a weapon against people need to reflect on the amount of hate you spew and ask how your "god" would feel about you doing all the judging for him.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Mar 17, 2013 at 10:54PM

“Pa should legalize gay marriage ! Since gay marriage has been legalized in 9 other states,there has been positive effects in their community. "YOU" people that think us gay people are not the same are just oblivious to reality ! If we are not the same then what are we? We choose to let people know our sexual preference, but if we didn't the world would never discriminate us. Just as women gained their right, slavery was abolished and african americans became equal why cant gay people be allowed to love and commit to whoever they decide. It should be us people standing together fighting for what WE know is right.

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16. john hallock said... on Jul 5, 2013 at 12:41AM

“Spain, the most Catholic country in the world has had federal gay marriage for years! As for "traditional" marriage, do u mean marriages where the woman was property and not allowed divorce, marriage taboo to slaves who may be sold to different owners, or jews not allowed to marry Catholics??? Get over it. I have to "pay" thru my taxes for my brother's marriage--his 5th to a woman swinger, they sodomize nightly as do all straights engaging in oral, anal or other non-procreative sex, including those using birth control. For all the right-wing blind worship of the Constitution, they somehow overlook separation of church and state. Besides if u want to "protect" marriage, the most sweeping and obvious way is to outlaw divorce, as does the Bible. Good luck with that one in your churches and civic life..hhmmm, could u instead take a small cheap stab at gays?? If u believe things "because they r in the Bible", a pre-Copernicus text, I guess your world is flat, the 4 corners of the earth!”

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17. Anonymous said... on Dec 26, 2013 at 10:46PM

“I agree! Pennsylvania should legalize same-sex/gay marriage. I care about God, but it is not fair. New Jersey has it, Delaware has it, New Jersey has it. Plus, my uncle is gay and married a man. If you don't like that, get some psychological help immediately. I want it to take in effect right now!”


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