Facts About Gay Marriage in PA

Freedom to Marry gives us a crash course on the issue

Photo by Think Stock

While the current status for gay marriage in Pennsylvania is behind other states this election year – four of which are voting on marriage equality initiatives at the polls  – Freedom to Marry has taken a deeper look at the issue on a state-by-state basis. Click here to research marriage progress around the country.

Here at home, state advocacy groups are working toward equality for all Pennsylvania’s families by blocking attempts to write discrimination into the state constitution. And so far they’ve been successful even though Gov. Tom Corbett has said he would like to establish marriage laws between a man and woman exclusively. If he’s successful, it would be the first time that discrimination would be written into our state constitution.

He means business. Several times in the past six years, the Pennsylvania state legislature has proposed or voted on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, but to date, the amendment has never been passed in the legislature. But back in 1996, the Pennsylvania legislature did approve a state statute that forbid the government from recognizing or performing marriages or other forms of unions between same-sex couples, but that hasn’t stopped couples from applying for licenses in protest.

It also hasn’t prevented certain officials, including Philly’s own mayors, from officiating ceremonies for same-sex couples, though each union remains unrecognized as far as state law in concerned. Obviously some cities and counties are more progressive than others (including Philadelphia), offering protections for the LGBT community, but still there are no protections for LGBT citizens within the state as a whole. Believe it or not, you can still be fired for being gay in the Keystone State.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania residents are moving forward on marriage, with 39 percent saying they believe marriage should be legal for same-sex couples. And 42 percent of black Pennsylvanians support the freedom to marry, according to Public Policy Polling from June of this year.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has even said that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is “discriminatory.” Said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, “The AMA now joins every other mainstream public health organization in America in making the case for providing the freedom to marry – and the critical safety-net that comes with marriage – to loving, committed same-sex couples.”

The issue impact many couples within the state. According to The Williams Institute’s analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, 22,336 same-sex couples are living in Pennsylvania, representing 4.5 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.