Tuesday, June 27, 2006


We are debating the wrong thing. We should be debating whether or not to emulate Vermont with civil unions or New Jersey with domestic partnerships instead of whether or not to ban future state legislators from doing something to stop gay and lesbian people from having rights when they commit to each other.Let us be clear: the state has no rational purpose in discouraging monagamous relationships in the gay community. The state has no rational purpose in setting up roadblocks towards gay people taking care of each other. The state has no rational purpose in seeing that gays in 2006 have lesser rights to form binding relationships than slaves did in 1806: no state, to the best of my knowledege, banned slaves from marrying.The last time Pennsylvania wrote discrimination into the constitution was in 1838, when it banned African-Americans from voting. It took almost 40 years to get this abombinable provision removed from the Pennsylvania constitution.The 61 votes on final passage against the gay marriage amendment dramtically underestimates the pro-human rights strength in the Pennsylvania House. Over 30 legislators who voted for the gay marriage ban on final passage voted for the Nailor amendment, which would have preserved the legislature's right to provide for civil unions or domestic partnerships.Some of the yes votes were from political expediency or mere habit. Others are from lame ducks who will soon be leaving the legislature. The hidden news of the vote is that support in the legislature for extending basic human rights to gay people is at an all-time high.

June 10, 2006



Adding the votes of those who voted to change the language to preserve civil unions and domestic partnerships, and those who voted to send the whole mess back to committee, and those who were absent but indicated support, there are about 112 out of the 203 House members who appear to favor some sort of legislative action to give gay and lesbian people substantial marriage rights.

Hopefully, the full Senate will go along with the Senate Judiciary Committee and give the radical right a choice only between outlawing what is already illegal–gay marriages–and doing nothing at all.

On a practical, every day level, the real issue is whether the legislature is going to seek to have the voters expand the existing legal ban on gay marriage to civil unions and domestic partnerships.It certainly seems that there is a likely bipartisan, bicameral majority in favor of the preservation of legislative ability to create new rights short of marriage. What we need is active citizens to work on this if we can stop the constitutional amendment from banning it.

June 17, 2006


Lost in the press coverage of the house's 136-61 passage of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is the coverage of the Nailor amendment, which sought to preserve the right of a future legislature to pass civil union or domestic partnership legislation. Over 30 legislators (I do not have the roll calls in front of me I as write this, so I can't now give an exact number) voted for the Nailor amendment who also voted for the bill.In other words, just as the House was acting to ban gay marriage, there was record support for the possibility of civil unions or domestic partnerships.We should be debating the respective merits of the different approaches of Vermont--civil unions--and New Jersey--domestic partnerships--instead of debating whether or not to ban future legislators from granting gay and lesbian people full civil rights.To the best of my knowledge, no state that allowed slavery ever banned the marriage of slaves. For Pennsylvania to ban gay and lesbian people the right to marry would be to say that they should have one less right than even slaves enjoyed.The last time Pennsylvania put discrimination into the Pennsylvania Constitution was in 1838, when it banned African-Americans from voting in Pennsylvania elections. It took nearly 40 years to get that noxious amendment out of the Pennsylvania Constitution.Pennsylvania ought to put either civil unions or domestic partnerships into the law before a constitutional amendment comes up for a vote in November, 2008. Pennsylvanians should have some experience with expanded rights for gay and lesbian people so they can make an informed judgment if the angry rhetoric of opposition forces towards full human rights really describes reality.Some people think the rush to ban gay and lesbian marriage, civil unions, and domestic partneships has to do with a desire to raise turnout for the Republican nominee in 2008. That is likely part of it. I think though that the major reason is that right wing forces are well aware that their opposition to full marriage rights increasingly comes off as mere uninformed intolerance and bigotry, and that polling numbers show that their position is plummeting in voter appeal. They want to try to get what is increasingly likely to be a transient majority to place their opposition to full human rights into stone.If you share my concerns, please call your state senator and ask him or her to either defeat the amendment outright (the best tactic) or change it so that it goes back to the House again for approval. The same version has to pass both the House and Senate in two consecutive legislative session before a Pennsylvania constitutional amendment goes before the voters for approval.

June 10, 2006



I have been quoted on the radio and in at least one newspaper as opposing a Pennsylvania constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in our state.
Not one person called or wrote or emailed to express disagreement or displeasure. Nor have I heard yet from constituents mobilized by any kind of campaign against gay marriage.
My sense is that the issue has peaked, and that the right will have to do a lot of work to rev it up again. I believe there is an at least one national poll confirming my anecdotal impression.

April 17, 2006


"It is the people who get married who define the meaning of marriage" is a great line. It is a good rebuttal to those who want to believe that gay marriages represent a moral crisis threatening traditional marriages; actually they represent a moral awakening against the acceptance of casually available sex without love or commitment.

February 19, 2004


A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage would be a tacit concession that the U.S. Constitution allows states to offer gay marriage. Those who want to ban gay marriage should discuss whether the threat of gay marriage is lesser or greater than the threat of bin Laden, whether it is coded yellow, orange or red. They should be pushed to identify those who have changed their sexual orientation to gay as a rresult of the legalization of gay marriage, or those marriages that have broken up since the legalization of gay marriage. They will have enormous difficulties showing any effects whatsoever. Making efforts to stop gay marriage a major national issue will only operate to reinforce the existing gravitas gap plaguing the Bush Administration.

February 7, 2004



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