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PA LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus pushes to codify marriage equality protections into state law

Sen. Carolyn Comitta speaks at a press conference in Harrisburg May 7, 2024 (Credit: Sen. Comitta’s office/Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
May 7, 2024

Later this month, Pennsylvania will mark 10 years since a judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. But lawmakers and advocates say there’s still work to be done, and that it’s time to codify marriage equality protections into law. 

“Too often we have seen long held rights and freedoms vanish in the blink of an eye,” state Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) said at a press conference Tuesday at the Capitol in Harrisburg, alongside fellow members of the Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The fact is, we cannot rely solely on the courts to fix the failings of our laws. There is just too much at stake.”

“We have the power to affirm this right,” she added. “And we must continue to advance equality for same sex couples, and all LGBTQ+ individuals in Pennsylvania.”

In May 2014, a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ended same-sex marriage bans nationwide.

Comitta and state Reps. Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny) and Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) have legislation currently before the House Judiciary Committee that would update current laws to remove “outdated, unconstitutional, and unnecessary sections of law,” in regards to marriage equality. They argue that this language still  present in Pennsylvania’s laws would ban same-sex marriage if both the state and national court decisions were overturned.

Ryan Matthews, Pennsylvania State Director of the Human Rights Campaign, cited a Public Religion Research Institute poll that found 66% of Pennsylvanians support codifying marriage equality into law. He said it was time for Pennsylvania’s legislature to follow the lead of President Joe Biden, who signed the Respect for Marriage Act in 2022.

“So when our allies stand up and introduce important legislation like this, we are here to thank them, but we’re also here to say to all of the other legislators that ask why is this an important step, to show that it is because of basic respect for us and our community that we need to be recognized and protected in law,” Matthews said.

Benham, who was the first openly queer woman elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, said legislation needs to go further in protecting marriage equality rights. 

“But I do think it is important, too, when we talk about marriage equality being the law of the land to recognize that there is a group of people who still do not have full access to marriage rights,” Benham said. “Until individuals with disabilities can get married without losing their Social Security, disability or health care benefits, marriage equality is not a law of the land for all.”

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.