Pennsylvania Gay Couples Getting Married…Finally

Same sex couples across the Commonwealth began getting marriage licenses following Judge John Jones III ruling yesterday throwing out the state’s marriage ban as unconstitutional.  I was at the Berks County Services Center this morning as a couple from Morgantown arrived promptly at 8AM for their license.  Unwilling to state their names or go on the record because one of the female couple is unemployed and seeking work, they were joyous that after eight years together they can make their relationship legal and equal in the eyes of the law.  One of the women said she has serious health issues and being able to provide for her health, their assets and property in case of the worst case happening is a comfort.  Being legally married means her soon to be wife cannot be denied hospital visitation  and is ensured of survivor rights and inheritance.

There are 1,039 federal rights which come with marriage, everything from being able to file joint tax returns to eligibility for Social Security survivor benefits.  These have been denied to gay couples in Pennsylvania until yesterday.

Kurt German and Todd Gimbi were the second couple to arrive this morning.  Both work in retail and heard the news from co-workers.  They have been together for 25 years after meeting at an under 21 club in Wilkes-Barre.  Todd said they fell in love at first sight and were ecstatic at being able to marry.  He is originally from Hazleton and German from Wilkes-Barre.  Both now live ad work in Reading.

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Todd Gimbi (left) and Kurt German hold their newly received marriage license.

Kane Gets Blowback on DOMA Decision

Attorney General Kathleen Kane is getting blowback this week on two separate issues.  First is her shameless wrangling to evict Judge Barry Feudale from his responsibilities overseeing central PA grand juries.  The second is over her decision not to defend the state’s Defense of marriage law in a suit filed by the ACLU.  Right wing ideologues are scorching her for this claiming she must because it is her duty to uphold the law, in this case, a law which has been declared unconstitutional on the federal level.

How can a law which has been declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court be defended on a state level?  It is no longer lawful and therefore indefensible.  Why is it these idiots, blinded by their bigotry, cannot understand that she is defending the law of the land by not defending this state one in court?

Kane Won’t Defend Pennsylvania Marriage Ban

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced yesterday her office will not defend the state’s DOMA law in a legal action entered into federal court by the ACLU of PA on behalf of two dozen same sex couples.  The Commonwealth passed the law limiting rights and we just saw the U.S. Supreme Court strike down the federal law as unconstitutional.  If the federal law is unconstitutional because its violates couple’s rights then each state law is also unconstitutional.  Unfortunately they will need to be litigated on a state by state basis.  Ours is the first such challenge to be filed nationally.

I called for such action the day the SCOTUS decision was issued, challenging my peers in committed relationships to seek marriage licenses then hire civil rights counsel to challenge the law.  This is what the ACLU is doing.  There’s no way, following the SCOTUS decision, that a Judge can go against that momentous, landmark decision and uphold these discriminatory laws.

Meanwhile State Reps Brian Sims and Steve McCarter  have co-sponsored a marriage equality bill in Harrisburg.  Sims is the first openly gay person elected to that body in Pennsylvania.  McCarter issued this statement yesterday following the Kane announcement:

I’m extremely proud of Attorney General Kane for doing what is best for Pennsylvanians and agreeing that we must not stand in the way of progress and true marriage equality for all,” McCarter said. “The law banning gay marriage is obsolete and frankly, a violation of the rights of thousands of LGBT citizens.

“It’s the right thing to do and is a fundamental civil rights issue,” McCarter said.

The lawsuit challenging the gay marriage ban was filed in federal court on Tuesday by two dozen Pennsylvania residents seeking to force Pennsylvania to allow them to marry or recognize their same-sex marriages performed in other states.

“Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that does not allow either gay marriage or civil unions, which only acts as a detriment to our state,” McCarter said. “I’m honored to be working with Representative Brian Sims to gather support in the legislature for a bill that would legalize gay marriage and finally bring true marriage equality to all Pennsylvanians.”

 

ACLU, Couples Seek to Overturn Marriage Ban

The Pennsylvania ACLU is suing to overturn the state’s ban on same sex marriage in an action representing four couples denied equality under the law.  As I predicted after the SCOTUS decision on DOMA there is now legal precedent that denial of equal justice under law is unconstitutional and a gateway towards overturning state marriage bans.

If DOMA is unconstitutional then so is Pennsylvania’s ban on same sex marriage.  This lawsuit will take this case to federal court where the Supreme Court decision will be the basis of the decision.  The Court made very clear that gay couples cannot be denied the same benefits provided heterosexual couples who are allowed to marry and given rights denied under the law to LGBT couples.  The law of the land now says this is illegal.

What DOMA Means in Pennsylvania

What do today’s decisions by the Supreme Court mean for marriage equality in Pennsylvania?  I believe this means that no one in the Commonwealth can legally deny marriage licenses to same sex couples.  The sweeping decision by Justice Kennedy in DOMA says that discrimination of this sort is a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Though the decision is around the act passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton today’s action by the Court opens the door to anyone to challenge their state’s laws under United States v Windsor.

A couple rejected at their county courthouse can now file a lawsuit against that county and the Commonwealth claiming the prohibition of equal rights to marry is a violation of this DOMA decision.  The cases will be litigated on a state by state basis but it’s clear no federal appeals court will be able to overturn decisions limiting equal rights.

Marriage equality in Pennsylvania will be a reality soon.

Prop H8 Case is Rejected on Standing

California’s Proposition 8 case was rejected by the Supreme Court based on standing.  This is an important legal term meaning the man who filed the appeal had no basis for doing so because he wasn’t affected by the law.  The ruling means the Court couldn’t rule on the constitutionality of marriage because the party bringing the action had no legal basis for doing so.

It means also that the Ninth Circuit had no basis for deciding the case so the decision of the state court stands making marriage equality the law in California.  This is a win for the LGBT community in a flawed case which prevented a landmark decision affecting the entire country.

You will never guess where I had my greatest culture shock on my Southern Road Trip

Just got home from an amazing road trip of the South and I’m not going to lie, I was expecting to feel the same culture shock that I had when attending a country music festival in North Carolina.   

I was waiting to be wowed and shocked by all sorts of political signs, I mean this is an election year and we were driving through the bedrock of American Conservatism. To my surprise the greatest shock I received was a little past the Delaware River on my way home from the airport. Yes, in Pennsylvania. 

Around mile marker of the Pennsylvania turnpike was a huge billboard, quite massive and caused me to laugh and make the “come on” expression:

Obama supports Gay Marriage and Abortion….Vote Republican

I mean I saw one anti-abortion billboard outside of Jackson, Mississippi, but they just had the vote on a personhood amendment that was narrowly defeated. Didn’t see one say in the “Don’t Say Gay” state of Tennessee. I was actually shocked to see as many Obama signs as I did, but that was in Memphis.

 Nothing in Georgia and nothing in the great state of Alabama where after his inauguration Governor Bentley had to walk back and apologize for a comment on how those who haven’t accepted Jesus as their savior are not his “brothers and sisters” (I guess I am his brother even though I think he’s an ass). 

Then back into Mississippi and into Louisiana where Gov. Jindal used the comparison on how mardi gras works for New Orleans but might not work for another state to respond to why Romney Care was good for Massachusetts, but ObamaCares is bad for the nation.  

But I guess the Pennsylvania Republican Party would prefer to focus on the important issues that will improve the economy. You know how every Democrat wants to abort your pregnancy and if they can’t abort your pregnancy they want your kids to become gay to destroy the sanctity of marriage. 

I never thought that  Pennsylvania would shock me more than Mississippi or Alabama. Thankfully the Pennsylvania GOP was there when I crossed back into this great commonwealth to remind 

me about assumptions.

Metcalfe Introduces Marriage Amendment

Extremist Republican Daryl Metcalfe today introduced an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution which would legalize discrimination in marriage rights.  The effort would enshrine inequality into the law forcing same sex couples into permanent second class citizenship.  Again this effort will need to be blocked during the process.  Once again I will out any closeted members of the legislature who vote in favor of this measure.  Voting against one’s interests is news.

This comes just a day after the Equality Forum in Philadelphia celebrated the heroism of two men Dan Choi and Daniel Hernandez Jr.

Choi chained himself to the White House perimeter protesting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  He was railroaded out of the military for being gay and has become the symbol of opposition to discrimination in our Armed Forces.

Hernandez is the hero who saved Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords life by wresting the gun from her would be assassin.  We salute these heroes and role models at the same time Daryl Metcalfe attempts to say they aren’t worthy of the same rights as other Americans.

This photo is of the two men and Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of the Equality Forum.

The Prop H8 Decision

Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision overturning California’s Proposition 8 was a welcome relief for all those who cherish equality under law.  The well reasoned and well written decision outlined the case quite well and undercut all of the myths and bigoted beliefs against granting all Americans identical access to what it terms a “fundamental right.”  The proponents of sexual apartheid actually were forced into a federal court to prove the fear mongering advertisements they used to convince voters gays and lesbians were evil sexual predators looking to recruit children.  Of course this is as nonsensical as many of the conservatives other beliefs and they were unable to prove any of it in court.

So bad was their case the Judge totally dismissed the testimony of their “expert witnesses” because, as it turned out, they weren’t experts at all.  In fact they hadn’t even read most of the studies on the matter.  Their opinions weren’t supported by any facts and therefore their case was thrown out.

Judge Walker affirmed that marriage is a fundamental right which has undergone massive changes in our country’s history.  He also cited cultures where homosexuality is open and accepted and where couples are free to wed.  Studies prove children of same sex parents grown up as well adjusted as any others and that there is no risk to child molestation.  In fact the vast majority of sexual molesters are white heterosexual men.  

The decision also affirms the right that no minority group can have their fundamental rights stripped away at the ballot box.  Judge Walker condemned the practice early in his written  dissertation.  An appeal of the decision was filed yesterday but, by my understanding of the law, it must be based on this case as presented to this court.  If so I don’t understand how this can be overturned because the case presented by the proponents was so weak as to be wholly dismissed.

It is difficult to describe what this means to the LGBT community.  We were demonized, victimized and described as sub human by those against gay marriage in thousands of commercials, speeches and campaign materials during a campaign which became known as Proposition H8.  The Mormon Church combined with evangelical christian cults to raise millions of dollars to spread their message of hate and they failed.  Some friends and regular readers of TPP happened to be in Salt Lake City at the time and report that thousands of gays and lesbians marched on the LDS tabernacle and surrounded it celebrating the overturning of Prop H8 and desired to let the Mormon cult know how happy they were justice was served.  The Mormons locked down their temple trapping my friends inside.

Mary Matalin, on CNN Thursday morning claimed gay marriage is not a civil right and called the decision an “overreach.”  She obviously hadn’t read it and we know why she’s a pundit and not a lawyer.  Marriage has been a right and Judge Walker termed it a “fundamental right.”  There are 1138 federal rights which go with marriage and this is why another Judge (Republican at that) recently ruled the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.  You cannot have separate classes of citizens under the law and depriving LGBT citizens of those rights creates a system of sexual apartheid.  That is clearly unconstitutional.

The Judge also declared Prop 8 unconstitutional under the due process clause.  Since same sex couples are forced to pay lawyers to draft legal documents in lieu of a right to marry they are deprived of property without due process.  Since married couples are documented to live longer and earn greater assets this also creates a violation of due process.  Denying anyone of life, liberty or property without due process is unconstitutional.

Tea Partiers are so fond of their pocket constitutions but they either don’t read it or don’t comprehend its meanings.  Judge Walker does and determined that no one has the right to deprive someone else of their rights.  It really is as simple as that.