Now, PA Democrats need to stand up on LGBT rights
“This morning, the Supreme Court released its decision on the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” which prevented same-sex couples across the country from getting the same federal benefits as any other couples,” the text of the email read. “This is a huge victory for progress, and it goes to show how far we’ve come since the bill was passed 17 years ago. But we can’t stop here. State by state, we must expand the DOMA victory into victories for equality everywhere. And that starts by electing Democrats to every office.”
Other than the fundraising email asking supporters to donate so more “pro-equality” Democrats can get elected across Pennsylvania, there’s little mention of any attempt to legalize gay marriage in Pennsylvania.
Today’s ruling does nothing to change Pennsylvania’s harsh discrimination laws against our state’s LGBT community—so keep in mind that while it’s a step in the right direction, there’s a ton of work that still needs to be done, and until lately, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party did not exactly lead the way on this issue.
As PW has written in the past, there are numerous, make-sense laws that have yet to get through the Pennsylvania General Assembly—including changing the inheritance tax to include the same exception for gay couples that straight ones have, and other anti-discrimination, anti-bullying and gay marriage measures.
Many attempts to make these issues come to fruition have been led by a number of unabashedly LGBT-supporting lawmakers in the Legislature, who’ve mostly come from Southeast Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh.
We might be farther along on these issues if the Democratic Party had been organized. But it took until last year for the party as a whole to recognize the “Freedom to Marry” in their platform, and even when the resolution was endorsed at last June’s Democratic Party retreat in King of Prussia, several Democrats from northwest and southwest Pennsylvania voted against. It was added to their platform around the same time the Texas and Montana Democratic parties decided this was a worthwhile cause.
And why did it take so long? Simple. According to their own website, Pennsylvania Democrats follow the national party. And, nationally—again, with a few outliers—the Democratic Party has been hard-pressed to support equal rights for LGBT Americans. President Bill Clinton is the one who signed DOMA in the first place, 17 years ago. It wasn’t until September 2012 that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled a platform which included support for gay marriage. Seriously, that’s how long it took.
Incredibly, there are still members of the national Democratic Party who’ve held out on support of the issue, which came to a head earlier this year when, one by one, members of Congress came out in support of the issue. And certain Pennsylvania Democrats have yet to get on board, too, for some reason.
None of this is to say today’s rulings aren’t progress. They are. But Pennsylvanians should not lose sight of where we are as a state. And if we ever want gay marriage recognized here, like it is in California and numerous other states, our Democratic party needs to stand united and make a push beyond the national conversation. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait for the Supreme Court to do it for us.
Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso