Gay Marriage Not Likely For A Long Time In Pa Panelists At Forum Concur

07.23.13 | Abby Lutcher

“Realistically none of them are going to go through. I don’t say that to be pessimistic but to be realistic,” said Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin County. Teplitz was among eight panelists who participated in "Advancing Toward Equality," which was hosted by Harrisburg Hope, the Capital Region Stonewall Democrats and the LGBT Center of Central PA. An audience of approximately 100 listened to the two-hour forum, which broached legislation, religious arguments and the financial impact of a ban on gay marriage. The forum was held at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore. “I often tell people when they want to get married, I say I would go where it’s respected and I would have your celebration there then I would send the receipts to your legislator and let them know what you are not spending here,” said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality PA. The issue of gay marriage continues to be front and center this summer. In June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and dismissed a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage. Two weeks ago, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of 23 plaintiffs challenging the state Defense of Marriage Act. Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, president of Harrisburg Hope, a nonpartisan advocacy group, said invitations to the event were sent to all midstate legislators, as well as state Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, and other Congressional delegates. With the exception of Kevin Schreiber, D-York County, and Patty Kim, D-Harrisburg, a member of the panel, no other state lawmaker accepted the invitation, Kennedy-Shaffer said. “We wanted to make sure we invited both Democrats and Republicans,” he said. Kim called for more education and an end to stereotypes, racism and hate. “We have to realize there is a separation between church and state and no matter what you believe, we need to have equal rights as citizens,” she said. Teplitz, a freshman lawmaker, said the composition of the Legislature must change before any marriage equality legislation is approved. “If you look at the composition now in terms of the majority party, which determines committee chairs and leadership, it’s an uphill battle for even something like anti-discrimination, which should be a no-brainer,” he said. Teplitz urged the audience to become politically active – especially across districts represented by lawmakers who oppose gay marriage. Among current pending proposed legislation Senate Bill 719, which would make marriage equality the law of the land in the state. House Bill 1178 would legalize civil unions. Kim agreed that lawmakers who support marriage equality have a long battle ahead, but that they must not lose sight of more immediate battles. She said that eight out of every 10 LGBT youth is bullied or harassed. Pennsylvania remains the only state in the northeast that has not legalized same-sex marriage. “It is both embarrassing for Pennsylvania and it’s economically hurtful,” Martin said. Schreiber called marriage equality “a great buzz topic” that polarized but one with serious baseline issues like anti-bullying. “Discourse is healthy and can be done in a healthy way,” he said.