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PA Anti-Gay Amendment Advances


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PA Anti-Gay Amendment Advances

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

March 16, 2006 - 3:00 pm ET

(Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) A proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania state Constitution banning same-sex marriage and civil unions is headed to the full House for a vote.

The measure passed the House State Government Committee on a 15 - 13 vote Wednesday.

“We are disappointed that the Committee voted to immediately move the bill forward despite the acknowledgement by Republican and Democratic Committee members, including the chair, that public hearings are needed,” said Stacey Sobel, Executive Director for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.

“Constitutional amendments are serious matters that deserve informed consideration by our legislators. The time for public hearings on a constitutional amendment is before the legislation leaves the Committee, not after the fact.”

The state already has legislation preventing gays and lesbians from marrying but supporters of the amendment say it could be overturned in the courts.

The proposed amendment was filed in the legislature in January and says: "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this commonwealth, and neither the commonwealth now nor any of its political subdivisions shall create or recognize a legal status identical or substantially equivalent to that of marriage for unmarried individuals."

The GOP endorsed measure has bipartisan support and opposition. Opponents of the amendment say it is so poorly worded it could affect all non married couples in the state - gay or non-gay.

One Republican who opposes it, Sen. Joe Conti (R-Bucks County), said earlier this week that if the measure is approved it could have a broad negative economic impact on the state.

Opponents say that in addition to banning gay marriage the amendment could be used to nullify domestic partner benefits for public employees. It also would likely interfere with publicly funded universities’ ability to offer those benefits.

House Majority Leader Sam Smith (R-Jefferson) said the House will likely vote on the proposed amendment near the end of May.

It also needs to be approved in the Senate, and then passed a second time in the next session of the legislature before being put to voters. The earliest that could happen is next year, although most observers believe it could not reach the ballot before 2008.

On Tuesday hundreds of opponents of amending the Constitution rallied at the legislature. (story)

©365Gay.com 2006

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