PHILADELPHIA, PA — Against the backdrop of Philadelphia’s Love Park, Democratic state representatives Brian Simms and Steve McCarter introduced the Pennsylvania Marriage Equality Act on October 3.
“The majority of Pennsylvanians now support marriage equality, and that support continues to grow,” said Sims, who is gay. “Neighboring states, including New York, Maryland and Delaware, have all decided to be on the right side of history and have granted equal rights to their LGBT citizens. The time has come for Pennsylvania’s legislature to stand up and let our citizens know we see them as truly equal members of society and they have the right to choose whom they marry.”
In a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision in June, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Sims said, “It became apparent that Pennsylvania cannot continue to be stuck in the past. This is a civil rights issue facing our LGBT community. Furthermore, this issue is holding back Pennsylvania’s economy. People and businesses are seeing states that have true marriage equality as more attractive to them, and they’re spending their money in those states. This lack of equality is holding us back. Where are we at in our government where you lose rights by crossing a border?”
Sims and McCarter said they have received bipartisan support for the bill.
The announcement came on a day when Governor Tom Corbett, in a television interview, compared the marriage of a same-sex couple to the marriage of a brother and sister, a remark that sparked criticism from many quarters. In reaction to that, Sims wrote on his Facebook page, “No one, not even his own party, would argue that he (Corbett) is an intellectual heavyweight or even a particularly thoughtful person. The larger issue is that despite the fact that the majority of Pennsylvanians disagree with him, he continues to be the heaviest hitter in Pennsylvania’s anti-equality crusade.”
For Corbett, part of the crusade consists in fighting in court to uphold the Pennsylvania version of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit against the state in federal court in July on behalf of 23 plaintiffs who claim to have been discriminated against because of the law.
The state’s attorney general, Democrat Kathleen Kane, said she would not defend DOMA in the case because she thought it was “wholly unconstitutional.” That left Corbett’s office to step in to defend the law.
The introduction of the bill also comes amid a battle regarding a county clerk in Montgomery County, Bruce Hanes, who in July began issuing licenses to same-sex couples. The Corbett administration sued the county in state court, and the judge ruled that the clerk did not have the authority to run afoul of the state’s DOMA law. The county, however, is appealing that decision.
Marriage equality supporters say these developments taken together show that the state is heading toward acceptance of same-sex marriages.
McCarter said, “This is about ensuring all Pennsylvanians have equal benefits and protections before the law.”