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Will Pa. Lawmakers Again Debate Marriage Amendment?

by Louis  Finley
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Mar 24, 2012

Pennsylvania lawmakers have tabled a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

A scheduled vote on House Bill 1434 that state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) introduced last May was pulled from the legislative agenda earlier this month without a vote. The measure would also eliminate all domestic partner benefits in the commonwealth.

Metcalfe has been recognized by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as the Legislature's "No. 1 Conservative." He supports the "Women's Right-to-Know Act" that would require any woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound and listen to the unborn child's heartbeat, a bill that would "outlaw" teachers from going on strike and a measure that would allow the use of deadly force oneself without question.

"I think it's redundant," said state Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) in reference to HB 1434. "I think it's being brought up only to stir up the troops, the extreme right-wing faction in Pennsylvania, which is small, but very vocal, and I don't think there is a need for it whatsoever."

Unsure of why the bill was tabled, Josephs believes a possible reason is because of the lack of consideration of the Democratic minority. "I believe it has to do with the fact that I insist on voicing the other point of view in (State Government) committee meetings," she said. "The chairman (Metcalfe) gets very impatient. He doesn't want to hear my members making arguments. He doesn't want to hear my members talking about voters not liking the extreme right-wing positions. He gets very impatient and wants to shut us up, and I will not allow him to do that."

In spite of this inaction, Josephs said that Metcalfe will reintroduce HB 1434.

"I think [the bill] will reappear," she said. "It is very likely with this composition of people in the House and the committee that it will pass."

Equality Pennsylvania is urging supporters to continue speaking with their legislators, explaining that amending the state's constitution to ban marriage for same-sex couples is bad government.

"This bill, quite frankly, is not called for," said Ted Martin, the group's executive director. "It's a part of the extreme agenda of Harrisburg currently. It's completely unnecessary. It has enormous hidden costs, probably $600,000 to $1,000,000 to advertise it."

Though many states surrounding Pennsylvania have passed either marriage equality or civil unions laws, Martin suggests that nuptials for gays and lesbians in the commonwealth are not likely in the foreseeable future.

"In a state like Pennsylvania where it's perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay it is a pretty enormous leap [to push same-sex marriage,]" he said, noting that the Legislature has never taken a proactive vote on any pro-LGBT proposals, let alone nuptials for gays and lesbians. "The Pennsylvanian legislature has never done anything in support of the LGBT community. There is no politician out there that really are willing to strongly fight for this issue."

Adrian Shanker, president of the Equality Pennsylvania Board of Directors, echoed Martin's criticisms.

"[This amendment] creates zero jobs," he said. "This is what fair-minded legislatures need to understand... It's very important that people continue to talk to their legislators, continue to call their offices and tell them, 'Kill this bill.' Make sure that this bill does not see the light of day, because the current state legislature in Pennsylvania has no qualms about passing bad government bills."

Shanker noted that more than 50 percent of Pennsylvanians now support marriage for same-sex couples.

"It's 2012; it's time for some members of our state Legislature to wake up and smell the new millennium and realize the time for passing draconian bills has passed a long time ago," he said. "Right now is the time where they need to start trying to pass bills that create jobs, safe livable communities and that creates equal rights for the LGBT community instead of taking away those rights from a minority constituent group."

Shanker further argued that the proposed amendment will negatively impact the LGBT community and the state as a whole.

"It sends a message to LGBT youth that they live in a state that does not respect who they are, and it makes it significantly harder to encourage people to relocate people to Pennsylvania for a job," he said. "If you're a business who values their employees, you wouldn't ask them to move to a state who doesn't respect who they are-marriage is already illegal for same-sex couples in Pennsylvania. This law doesn't change that. It only makes sure that the LGBT community knows that they are less than equal."

Metcalfe was unavailable for comment.

Louis Finley is a student at Drexel University, and the former News Editor of the schools independent newspaper, The Triangle.


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