Pa. House, Senate bills would update state’s outdated definition of marriage | Tuesday Morning Coffee

April 20, 2021 7:13 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
LGBTQ individuals nationwide won a historic victory in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriages the law of the land with the high court’s landmark ruling in Obergfell v. Hodges.

Yet, all these years later, language limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman still clings to the state’s domestic relations statute. But lawmakers in the state House and Senate are looking to change that by updating the statute, so that state law matches legal reality for thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians.

“The promise of America has to include every single one of us – and because of generations of activists and LGBTQ+ leaders, marriage equality is the law of the land,” Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill, and one of three openly LGBTQ members of the chamber, said in a statement.

“However, outdated and discriminatory language still exists in commonwealth statute, and that must change. This bill will ensure that our laws reflect who we are and further clarify that in Pennsylvania, who you are and who you love is seen and valued,” Kenyatta said in the statement.

Sen. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester, who’s sponsoring the Senate version of the bill, observed in a statement that “nearly 6 years ago, our nation enshrined the right to marry and all of its privileges and responsibilities for same-sex couples.

“It is past time that we update our state laws to follow suit and reflect the modern, legal, and widely-accepted definition and view of marriage,” she said.

(Image via The Philadelphia Gay News)

LGBTQ activists in the state, and their legislative allies in the General Assembly have long noted that, while same-sex couples can marry in Pennsylvania, they have yet to win the same anti-discrimination protections as their fellow commonwealth residents.

In the state House, Democratic Reps. Dan Frankel and Jessica Benham, of Allegheny County, joined by Kenyatta, and Brian Sims, also of Philadelphia, are seeking co-sponsors for the newest version of the bill popularly known as the “Fairness Act,” which would ban discrimination against LGBTQ Pennsylvanians in matters of housing, education, and access to public accommodations. Like KenyattaSims and Benham also are out members of the chamber. Sims is gay. Benham is bisexual.

“Pennsylvania’s lack of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law is an embarrassment to this commonwealth and a deterrent for workers and businesses who could help grow our economy,” the three lawmakers wrote in a March 1 memo seeking support for their proposal.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
A plastic bag preemption lawsuit brought by environmental activists is taking aim at a long-time Harrisburg dealmaking mechanismStephen Caruso reports.

Philly LGBTQ activist Jonathan Lovitz has announced his candidacy for Rep. Brian Sims’ state House seat, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who served federal prison time for a corruption conviction, has found a second act teaching former offenders, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, a union leader argues that to help workers and long-term care residents, Pa. needs to boost its nursing home staffing ratios. And an advocate for the incarcerated says the Department of Corrections shouldn’t renew its contract with a Florida company that handles inmate mail.

A Berks County school system employee gets the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, 3/15/21 (Commonwealth Media Services screen capture)

With COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise in the state, health officials are urging the non-vaccinated to continue being careful, the Inquirer reports.
Community leaders and local officials are pleading for help as Pittsburgh sees a 90 percent surge in violence this year, the Post-Gazette reports.
Legislation that would require school districts to open classrooms to homeschoolers is advancing in the General Assembly, PennLive reports.
Lehigh Valley police are bracing for protests with a verdict looming in the Derek Chauvin trial, the Morning Call reports.
Luzerne County’s solicitor has recommended a special election for district attorney, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
A local man has been fined for harassing U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, the York Daily Record reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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A post shared by 🔲 House Tours 🔲 (@housetouring)

Philadelphians processed the Chauvin trial in a city-hosted healing circle, WHYY-FM reports.
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a lingering Pennsylvania case challenging the 2020 election, WESA-FM reports.
With demand for shots softening, Erie-area health systems are looking for ways to promote the COVID-19 vaccine, GoErie reports.
State Treasurer Stacy Garrity is backing Jeff Bartos for U.S. Senate, PoliticsPA reports.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale has died, aged 93. Roll Call looks back on his life. 

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11 a.m., the Senate gavels in at 1 p.m. In a sure sign things are slowly returning to normal, there’s a full slate of events on offer at the Capitol today (and, yes, you will notice a pattern).
8 a.m, Hearing Room 2, North Office Building: State Sens. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, and Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, host a roundtable on marijuana legalization.
9 a.m., 420 Main Capitol: Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, and others rally for legalized marijuana, and also hold a roundtable.
11:30 a.m., Capitol Steps: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and NORML also rally for marijuana legalization.
12:30 p.m., Capitol Steps: A march to legalize marijuana ends up at the Capitol steps.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
7:30 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Jim Gregory
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Jennifer O’Mara
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Gary Day
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Mike Carroll
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Stephen Kinsey
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Sen. Scott Hutchinson
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Steve Malagari
11:30 a.m: 
Luncheon for Sen. Lisa Baker
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Mike Zabel
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Jordan Harris

5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Devlin Robinson
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Kevin Boyle
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly appalling $25,000 today.

Dept. of Advertising.
The Democratic National Committee is out with a new ad in the Pittsburgh media market touting what it says are President Joe Biden’s successes on getting Americans vaccinated and stimulus checks into their wallets.  Earlier this month, the DNC rolled out billboards in Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre to thank Biden and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., for his yes vote on the stimulus.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a classic from The Only Ones to get your morning rolling. It’s the impossibly catchy ‘Another Girl, Another Planet.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Carolina dropped a toughie, losing 3-2 to Tampa in overtime on Monday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.