For the third time in four years, lawmakers have defeated an attempt to advance legislation to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.
This time the Republican-majority Senate Judiciary committee voted 8-6 to table a bill (SB 707), introduced by Sen. John Eichelberger (R., Blair) to amended the constitution to define marriage as being between a man and woman only.
The vote came before a packed hearing room without any debate.
Opponents called it a victory for gay rights.
“I believe that Senate Bill 707 is the antithesis of what Pennsylvanians need and want, and I am happy that the majority of my colleagues agree with me,” said Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery). “To support a bill that so clearly discriminates against an entire group of people is simply unconscionable and irresponsible.”
Earlier this year, Leach introduced a measure (SB 935) that would provide for marriage equality in Pennsylvania.
"The Republican majority is clearly focused on other things," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Each time the issue comes up it has less traction."
Pennsylvania already bans gay marriage, but opponents have sought to strengthen the ban by writing it into the constitution to prevent "activist judges" from reversing it. There are no legal challenges to the current statute at the present time, said Hoover.
But he said if a constitutional amendment were approved (which would take passage by both chambers in two consecutive years and passage by voter referendum) it would make it more difficult for supporters of same-sex marriage to succeed in getting it legalized in the future.
Hoover said the fact that a more moderate bill that would not have banned civil unions - was derailed this time around, "sends a loud signal that the Senate is not interested in taking this up."
Those who voted to table the bill were Republicans Pat Browne, Jane Earll, and Mary Jo White and Democrats Daylin Leach, Lisa Boscola, Wayne Fontana, Michael Stack, and Jay Costa. Those who voted against tabling the bill - all Republicans - were committee chairman Stewart Greenleaf, Jane Orie, John Gordner, Jeffrey Piccola, John Rafferty and Joe Scarnati.
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