Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reflections on Tuesday's marriage amendment vote

It's taken me two days to find some time to blog and to reflect on Tuesday's vote on Senate Bill 707, amending the state constitution to ban same sex marriage. It was hard to miss it, but in case you did, the committee voted 8-6 to table SB 707. This is the third time in four years that this hurtful initiative has failed, and it's the first time that the bill failed to get out of committee.

In 2008, this same committee passed, 10-4, a broader marriage amendment that also would have wiped out other forms of relationship recognition. There's only been one personnel change since 2008, so three members who voted "yes" in 08 voted to table this time around.

Senator Daylin Leach has called the vote "historic." He's right. While this wasn't an up or down vote on the merits of the bill, it was the next best thing. The eight senators who voted to table essentially said, "We want this to go away."

Senator Leach has also said that the eight senators who voted to table had "courage." I prefer to not say that this was a courageous vote. Voting to stop a bill that would inscribe discrimination into our constitution isn't courageous. Or at least it shouldn't be. The Pennsylvania Constitution has historically been used to preserve and expand rights and limit the power of the government.

But I get why Leach said that they had courage. For politicians, it's not easy to switch your vote after you've previously voted another way. And the heat that the anti-gay crowd brings, especially the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, can be withering. After the non-discrimination bill, HB 300, came out of committee in the House, I swear some reps were cowering in the corner of their offices, crying for their mommy. (Ok, I didn't actually see any reps cowering in the corner, crying for their mommy, but you get the point.)

We can't say that the marriage amendment is going away forever. In an earlier post, I referred to it as a zombie freak show that never seems to die. I fully expect that the anti-gay crowd will be back for more next year or in 2012.

But it's hard to imagine anyone taking them seriously after Tuesday's vote. Their efforts are lying in ashes in Room 8e-b of the East Wing of the Pennsylvania Capitol.

Andy in Harrisburg

Say "Thank you!" Our friends at Equality Pennsylvania have posted a thank you message that you can send to the eight senators who voted to table SB 707. These eight senators need to hear how much we appreciate their vote.

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