One discordant note in all the understandable euphoria about New York legalizing gay marriage: Why is Pennsylvania so lame? It's not just gay marriage -- that's a pipe dream at this point -- but the state is essentially a banana republic when compared to basic gay rights granted in so many other U.S. states:
"Pennsylvania is really a backwater when it comes to gay equality," said Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, a nonprofit group that backs gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights through education. "We don't even have hate-crime protection or workplace nondiscrimination protection, let alone civil unions or same-sex marriages."
In recent years, a number of state lawmakers in Pennsylvania have tried to move in the opposite direction from New York - attempting time and time again to get a ban on same-sex marriage written into the state's Constitution.
What annoys me is that people typically misdiagnose the problem. The conventional wisdom, which hasn't been updated much since the Frank Rizzo years in Philly, is that Pennsylvanians are just more socially conservative than their peers. The reality? A majority of Pennsylvanians support gay marriage -- and certainly more fundamental gay rights -- just as people do nationally.
No, the problem in Pa. goes way beyond gay rights -- it's a government that can stay in power while staying completely unresponsive to the will of the people. The failure of Harrisburg to respond to its citizens on ethics reform is even more appalling in some ways. This state needs radical, radical change -- maybe a new constitution that would re-define good government here but also shrink the legislature and allow a real chance to elect some reformers. Pennsylvania is in a political coma right now -- watching the world wake up to history.