Amid objections, Senate GOP bottles up Bucks lawmaker’s resolution honoring Pa.’s LGBTQ youth

By: - February 5, 2020 5:18 pm

Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, delivers remarks in support of LGBT youth on the Senate floor Wednesday. Photo via PA Senate.

The Bucks County-based Rainbow Room, which offers free events and educational programs for LGBTQ youth, will host its annual prom for queer teenagers on Feb. 15 this year, one day after Valentines Day. 

State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, hoped to stop by the event and present the teens with a proclamation declaring the Senate’s support for LGBTQ youth. 

Those plans came to a halt after he learned the Senate’s Republican majority could not unanimously support the ceremonial — and non-binding —  resolution he introduced recognizing Feb. 15 as “Love is Love” Day in Pennsylvania.

“That’s a sad commentary on where we are right now in our state, if we can’t get unanimous support for a resolution saying everyone needs to be treated equally,” Santarsiero said Wednesday. “If we can’t even get behind such a statement, we should be ashamed of ourselves.”

Santarsiero introduced the resolution  on Tuesday, and hoped the Senate would approve it by Wednesday, its last voting session until March. 

He said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, worked to secure support from his caucus, but informed Santarsiero on Tuesday that some members remained opposed to the resolution.

Corman’s spokeswoman, Jenn Kocher, said the GOP floor leader’s actions were “standard operating procedure” for resolutions that don’t immediately garner unanimous support.

Kocher said it’s common for lawmakers to tweak the wording of their resolutions to secure votes from reluctant colleagues. 

But Santarsiero said he wasn’t willing to budge on the contents of his resolution, which also calls on schools and the media to prevent bullying and affirm LGBTQ youth in their programs.

“I’m open to compromise, but there is nothing in there that should give any member of the state Senate any pause,” Santarsiero said. “It should have the unanimous support of every member.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers introduce dozens of resolutions each year. The ceremonial statements  don’t create new laws, but are meant to drum up publicity for a certain cause or politician. Some may honor local businesses, sports teams or historical events; others urge Congressional action or condemn human rights violations. 

If a resolution in the Senate has unanimous support, leaders typically fast track it for a floor vote. Resolutions that draw opposition have to pass a committee vote first before leaders can bring them up for a roll call vote.

The earliest that could happen for Santarsiero’s resolution is March, when the full Senate is scheduled to reconvene in Harrisburg.

Santarsiero said he’s disappointed that he won’t be able to pass the resolution before the Rainbow Room, which is run by Planned Parenthood, hosts its prom this month. If he had known the language would attract opposition, he said he would have introduced it sooner to allow time for a committee vote. 

But he doesn’t think it’s a bad thing that the senate will hold a roll call vote on the LGBTQ affirmation.

“There’s a benefit to that process because if someone is going to vote against it, let them be held accountable as to why they’re not doing it and answer publicly,” said Santarsiero, who delivered remarks supporting LGBTQ youth shortly before the Senate adjourned Wednesday.

The episode marks the second time in two weeks that resolutions have caused a stir in Pennsylvania’s State Senate.  

Last week, Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, objected to a resolution honoring Pennsylvania native Kobe Bryant, the basketball star who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. Bryant was charged with rape in 2003 and privately settled a lawsuit with his accuser in 2004.

The resolution was introduced by Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, who has been accused of workplace harassment and sexual assault himself. 

After Muth lodged her objection, the resolution was sent to the Senate Rules Committee, where it now awaits a vote. 

Kocher said the Bryant controversy led Republican leaders to declare an end to unanimous consent resolutions in the Senate. She said all resolutions, regardless of their message, will now be routed through committees for votes — the same procedure the House follows.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.