Reprieve, not victory in amendment battle

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recessed without taking a vote on the so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment.” It’s possible for the Legislature to vote on House Bill 2381 any time after they return on June 5, which coincidentally is the same day the federal “Marriage Protection Act” (sponsored by our very own Rick Santorum) will begin to be debated.

        Many of you were involved in contacting your legislators, and it’s exciting to let you know that legislators report having been contacted in unprecedented numbers. All of the

calls, e-mails, letters, petitions and lobby visits have had an impact and are part of the reason for the bill’s delay. Every voice has been critical in the effort to halt this anti-family legislation, and all the ways you, your families and your friends have asked your legislators to vote “No!” have made a difference. Even the Post-Gazette reported a flood of mail on the issue, and the letters were intelligent and articulate. 

        This work for the past several months has delayed bringing the amendment forward, which is important because in the state of Pennsylvania an amendment must first be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions. Once ratified by the Legislature, a ballot referendum then would be presented to the voters. So a delay allows us to potentially keep the referendum from being on the ballot in the same year as the next presidential election and thereby to avoid the demonization of gays and lesbians as a campaign tool.

        Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, a delay has allowed us to bring more people into the Value All Families Coalition. New individuals and groups join weekly, enabling us to further educate the people of Pennsylvania on this issue, which is making a clear difference for the voice of fairness and equality rather than fear.

        It is important to note that while 40 states, including Pennsylvania, already have laws denying the recognition of same-sex marriage, these amendments are basically a strategy to cut the judiciary out of the system of checks and balances that was devised to keep the country from being controlled by special interests. Instead, they write discrimination into law by limiting marriage to one man/one woman and limiting all legal partnerships to “marriage”—thereby affecting the ability of unmarried heterosexual as well as homosexual partners to protect their families. In other states, similar amendments have interfered with existing legal protections such as those for domestic violence cases, protection of domestic partner benefits including health insurance coverage, and child custody and adoption.

        If you haven’t yet done so, please contact your legislator, including your representative and senator on both the state and national levels, and let them know you don’t believe in writing discrimination into the law of the land. Our elected officials should act to protect and nurture all Pennsylvania families, not be persuaded by those special interests that think they own the right to say who is “family” and what kinds of families deserve legal recognition.

        Regular updates and breaking news, as well as contact info for legislators and talking points, are available from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Web site at www.center4civilrights.org. Efforts in Pittsburgh are being coordinated by a variety of groups including the ACLU, the Stonewall Democrats, the Thomas Merton Center and Marriage Equality PA. Contact Dana at equalitynow@msn. com for info about local efforts.

Dana Elmendorf