No Amendment Yet
Currently, the state of Pennsylvania does not recognize any type of legal relationship for gay couples; not marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. To pass a constitutional amendment in Pennsylvania the measure has to be approved by both legislative houses with a majority and two years (of two-year sessions) in a row and then by voters in a referendum.
An anti-gay marriage bill, the “Marriage Protection” amendment, was recently pulled out of the house committee abruptly. Representative Daryl Metcalfe, who introduced the bill, was under fire from the former committee chair; Representative Babette Josephs for not focusing on what Josephs considers priorities. “Instead of finding ways to create jobs and promote a healthier, more prosperous Commonwealth, Harrisburg Republicans have started a war on women’s health and now they’re attacking committed LGBT couples and families all over the country,” said Josephs, a supporter of gay marriage. Apparently the bill was more intrusive than it seemed and might have compromised domestic partnership and civil union rights. Regardless of the reasoning, it is certainly a positive thing that the bill was removed.
Marriage Rights from Different Angles
Despite its lack of marriage rights for gay couples, Pennsylvania is home to the longest-running and most award-winning LGBT publication, the Philadelphia Gay News. Mark Segal is the owner of thirty-five years–since the paper started–and he is not convinced that legalizing gay marriage will happen any time soon. Instead, he finds a non-discrimination bill to be a lot more important than a marriage law. He could be right considering that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act delineates that discrimination based on “race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age or national origin” is strictly prohibited; sexual orientation and gender identity are not on that list.
Pennsylvanians will not be letting the issue rest any time soon though. Although they did not set out to be activists, Amanda Kole and Rachel Turanskidecided to marry each other, and the fun video they made turned into a short documentary. They hit the road for Iowa with friends and family,
including Kole’s sister and boyfriend, an independent filmmaker, who offered to film the trip as a wedding gift. The whole event was quite wild and flamboyant—Kole and Turanski were married in spandex suits by a female rapper in gold lamé and were graced with the presence of the Philadelphia dance group, Club Lyfstile. The video, Married in Spandex, turned out to be much more than a road trip, but a great, inspiring story that will throw Kole and Turanski into the public gay marriage debate.
At this point, anything will help, including the documentary. The executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, Tim Martin, is concerned about maintaining a strong presence against intense, well-funded lobbyists from organizations like Pennsylvania Family Institute. PFI will also be using film in their ongoing campaign. A 2011 conference that was a six-session video event, The Art of Marriage, was organized to teach couples how to construct “godly marriages.”
- Can gay couples marry in Pennsylvania? No.
- Can gay couples enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships? No.