Friday, August 1, 2014
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Where do local lawmakers stand on same-sex marriage?

WASHINGTON -- After Pennsylvania’s Democratic Sen. Bob Casey changed his position on Monday, every Philadelphia-area Democrat now supports same-sex marriage.

Where do local lawmakers stand on same-sex marriage?

U.S. Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., addresses  the Democratic Leadership Council´s "National Conversation" in Denver, Monday, July 24, 2006.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
U.S. Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., addresses the Democratic Leadership Council's "National Conversation" in Denver, Monday, July 24, 2006. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

WASHINGTON -- After Pennsylvania’s Democratic Sen. Bob Casey changed his position on Monday, every Philadelphia-area Democrat now supports same-sex marriage.

That matches the trend nationally -- after Casey, a social moderate, flipped his view Monday, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper shifted his stand Tuesday, leaving just seven Democrats in the Senate who have yet to back same-sex marriage.

For Republicans, the issue is still murky. Locally, no Republicans in Congress have supported the idea – though as of 3:15 Tuesday most have declined to answer questions about the issue, about 24 hours since Casey first made his announcement. Below is a list of every local member of the House and Senate, where they have stood and what they have said in response to questions posed by the Inquirer Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.

Nationally, only two Senate Republicans have so far come out in favor of same-sex marriage (one, Illinois’ Mark Kirk, did so Tuesday). But with the way this issue has moved, it seems only a matter of time before more Republicans change their positions.

Consider how fast this issue has shifted:

In 1996, when the Defense of Marriage Act passed, Joe Biden, then a Democratic senator from Delaware, was on the same side as Pennsylvania’s conservative Republican Rick Santorum – both voted for it. Democrats, in fact, joined Republicans to overwhelmingly vote in favor of the bill limiting federal marriage benefits to opposite-sex couples only. A Democratic President, Bill Clinton, signed the measure.

Two exceptions in the House were Philadelphia’s Chaka Fattah and Jersey Shore Congressman Frank Pallone, who were two of just 67 House members to vote “no.”

Meanwhile, three local lawmakers who backed DOMA – New Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews and Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez (then in the House) – have reversed their positions. Same-sex marriage has become the default position of Democrats, and particularly any with ambitions for national office (see: Clinton, Hillary).

On an issue where many lawmakers have changed their positions, here is the record of where Philadelphia-area officials have stood, and what they have said (or not said) in recent days:

Senate:
Bob Casey (D., Pa.) – Opposed same-sex marriage, but favored civil unions, as recently as last year, when he sought re-election. On Monday changed his position, saying, “If two people of the same sex fall in love and want to marry, why would our government stand in their way?”

Frank Lautenberg (D., NJ) – Joined 84 other Senators to back DOMA in 1996, but has since endorsed a repeal and favors allowing same-sex marriage.

Bob Menendez (D., NJ) – Voted for DOMA in the House, but now also backs same-sex marriage. Wrote a 2011 op-ed in the Star-Ledger, of Newark, NJ, explaining his views.

Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) – As a House member he voted for a proposed amendment in 2004 that would have limited marriage to one man and one woman. When running for Senate in 2010 his campaign site said he believed the “tradition of marriage is sacred and is best defined as between a man and a woman.” A spokeswoman said Monday his position has not changed.

House:
Rob Andrews (D., NJ) – Voted for DOMA in the House, but has since said he supports same-sex marriage.

Bob Brady (D., Pa.) – Backs same-sex marriage. Joined most Democrats in voting against an amendment to limit marriage to a man and a woman.

Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) – In 2006 voted for a proposed constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Told the Allentown Morning-Call last year that marriage should be between one man and one woman and that states should be allowed to decide on civil unions. UPDATE: In a statement, he pointed out that he has backed other laws to fight discrimination against same-sex couples and co-sponsored a bill to put same-sex couples on the same footing as heterosexual couples when it comes to immigration rules.

"I understand that the views of many Americans are changing on the issue of marriage.” Dent wrote in a statement. As of Tuesday afternoon, his press staff has not returned messages seeking comment on his stand following Casey’s change.

Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) – Voted against DOMA in 1996 and supports same-sex marriage. “I believed in fairness and LGBT equality when I voted against the unfair Defense of Marriage Act in my first term in Congress, 1996. I believe in fairness today as the support for same-sex marriage is building everywhere,” he said in an email Tuesday.

Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) – Said in a debate last year that marriage “is an institution between a man and a woman” and that same-sex marriage should be determined on a state-by-state basis. He was one of 27 Republicans to vote against a proposed 2006 amendment to bar same-sex marriage. A press aide had not responded to requests for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) – Opposes same-sex marriage but backs civil unions. In 2004 and 2006 he voted against proposed constitutional amendments to bar same-sex marriage. In each instance he was one of only 27 Republicans to vote no. “He has been consistent in his support of the existing federal law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Congressman also has consistently expressed his support of civil unions for those couples who seek certain legal protections under various state laws,” a spokesman e-mailed Monday.

Frank LoBiondo (R., NJ) – Voted for DOMA and the 04 and 06 amendments limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. UPDATE: A spokesman added Tuesday that LoBiondo has supported civil unions. He had no update on LoBiondo's stand on same-sex marriage. A spokesman had not responded to an e-mail seeking comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

Pat Meehan (R., Pa.)Said in 2011 that marriage is between a man and a woman but supported civil unions. UPDATE: His office confirmed Tuesday afternoon that this remains Meehan's position. His press aide said Meehan believes civil unions should be left up to states. His office had not issued a statement on his position as of Tuesday afternoon.

Jon Runyan (R., NJ) – Said marriage is between a man and a woman when he first ran for office in 2010. He has supported civil unions. An aide said he was unavailable to comment Tuesday.

Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) – As a state lawmaker, she was one of four state senators to vote against Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA and supports same-sex marriage. "Everyone should be entitled to the same basic rights regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation. This includes the legal right to marry the person they love and are committed to," Schwartz said Monday in an e-mail.

Chris Smith (R., NJ) – Voted for DOMA and the 04 and 06 amendments limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Voted against repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 2010. A spokesman had not responded to an e-mail seeking comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

Jonathan Tamari
About this blog

Jonathan Tamari is the Inquirer’s Washington correspondent. He writes about the lawmakers, politics and policy that affect Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Tamari previously covered the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Before that he worked in Trenton, reporting on the characters and color of New Jersey state government. He lives in Washington.

Reach Jonathan at jtamari@phillynews.com.

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