I read with dismay and embarrassment, Victoria Brownworth’s commentary on Advocate.com. The problem with Pennsylvania isn’t our “draconian marriage law” as she puts it, but rather self-absorbed people like Victoria. I just wanted to say, Whoa Missy! You and I clearly do not live in the same State of Pennsylvania.
If you’re gay or lesbian, live in Pennsylvania, and want to get married, you’d better move.
Her op-ed is full of so many problems, it is hard to decide where to begin, but lets start with a real picture of the status of Same-Sex Marriage in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has one of the most oppressive laws against same-sex marriage in the country and until very recently had no one to challenge it. But that challenge was short-lived, alas.
…But that all ended last week with the court order.
And so too did the hopes of other same-sex couples in Pennsylvania. Like me and my partner.
Brownworth is correct that a Commonwealth Court judge did rule that Hanes must stop issuing Marriage Licenses to same-sex couples, but Hanes’ actions and this specific case isn’t the only nor the most plausible challenge to the State’s DOMA law. All is not lost because of one judge’s ruling!
First, while PA does have a state-wide DOMA law, we do not have a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Overturning a law is a far easier step than some states are facing as they have constitutional amendments to deal with.
In all the states that have passed Marriage Equality, the states have had in place other LGBTQ protections such as nondiscrimination in Housing, Employment, and Public Accommodations. Pennsylvania has no such protections in place. MY point is that we have plenty of manageable, doable work in Pennsylvania to achieve Marriage Equality, and this one court ruling doesn’t stop any of it.
Before I leave the judicial decision regarding Hanes, it might be useful to point out two things:
1) In California, which now has Marriage Equality, it began with a Mayor who issued marriage licenses even though it appeared to be a violation of the state’s law. In other words, Hanes’ actions in granting licenses was a real and meaningful step in what will be a successful effort in Pennsylvania for full Equality.
2) Unlike in California, the Pennsylvania couples who were married with these licenses appear to still be married. The judge did not order these licenses as void. and that is not unimportant in the bigger scheme of things.
The only Democratic county in the state is Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania isn’t nearly as Republican as Brownworth paints it out to be. It would be a far cry to call PA progressive, but to name Philadelphia the only Democratic County is laughable. Anyone who has given Brownworth journalism awards might want to ask for them back, because she can’t seem to do her research!
We are at the very least five years away from Marriage Equality in Pennsylvania. The Catholic Council, and groups like the American Family Association of PA are strong and fighting any LGBTQ related legislation. But all hope is not lost. Statewide groups like Equality PA, the ACLU, and Keystone Progress, not to mention countless smaller, local, regional, and state-wide groups are working for Full Equality in Pennsylvania. The foundation is being set to be strong so that in the end, we will be victorious. but only if people like Victoria stop whining, roll up their sleeves and get to doing the hard work before us.
In the whole of Brownsworth’s op-ed, she has only one thing really correct:
Next year is a pivotal one in Pennsylvania, due to the upcoming election and a governor with one of the worst approval ratings in the country. Corbett may use marriage equality — banning it — an issue in his reelection to garner more votes from the red middle of the state.
Defeating Corbett is important just as it is to return the PA House to a Democrat majority. These steps are essential for any LGBTQ legislation to move forward. But our work is far broader than that. State-wide progress requires state-wide work, state-wide coalition building, state-wide communication and state-wide cooperation. All Pennsylvanians who care about Fairness and Equality must be willing to listen to one another, understand the various factors at work in different parts of the state and together seek solutions.