As marriage equality for same-sex couples gains momentum in other states, advocates across Pennsylvania today condemned state legislators who intend to introduce a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as solely between one man and one woman. The Value All Families Coalition called the proposed amendment "a divisive distraction" from issues that Pennsylvanians care most about.
"Nobody should be fooled by supporters of the proposed amendment who say they just want to protect marriage," said Jake Kaskey, policy and outreach coordinator of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania. "The reality is that these constitutional amendments hurt more than just same-sex couples and could negatively harm countless families and children across Pennsylvania."
Pennsylvania legislators are currently considering House Bill 300, legislation to protect Pennsylvanians from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity.
"This proposed amendment is a craven attempt by some to distract from this important issue people across the state care deeply about," Kaskey said.
Across the country this year, there has been very little legislative activity around constitutional amendments like the one proposed in Pennsylvania. In fact, most legislative activity on the issue has been to pass bills legalizing same-sex marriage. Vermont and Maine both passed marriage equality laws this spring, and New Hampshire is on the verge of doing the same.
"Supporters of this amendment are on the wrong side of history," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. "A person's sexual orientation, identity, or expression should not determine what rights they are entitled to under our state constitution. Our constitution is intended to protect families, children, and people. It is not intended to discriminate against anyone for any reason."
Kaskey noted that same-sex marriage has not been a factor in this year's primary elections and was not a factor in last year's extremely competitive general election. Voters all across the country have indicated that they are very concerned about the economy, health care, national security, and the environment.
"This is an issue being driven by a special interest group that is misleading our elected officials and the public by implying that our legislators have not dealt with this issue," Kaskey added., "Same-sex marriage is already against the law in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Defense of Marriage Act was enacted in 1996. Surely, the majority of the members of the Senate realize they have been elected to deal with the real problems Pennsylvanians face. We urge them to spend their time on more pressing issues."
The Value All Families Coalition is comprised of diverse statewide, regional, and local organizations that support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pennsylvanians.