Proposed amendment makes no mention of banning civil unions
HARRISBURG, Pa. A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Pennsylvania, but it shortened the reach of the legislation by removing a portion that also would have outlawed civil unions.
The vote to change the legislation, which passed the House last week, came after sharp debate between Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Jane Earll, R-Erie, questioned whether a constitutional amendment is even needed since state law already bans gay marriage. There is no existing court challenge to the law and no indication that a state judge would strike it down, she said.
“Many of us believe we are fighting ghosts,” Earll said.
The bill now heads to the full Senate, where it faces an uncertain future. It also would need approval from the House this month if the multiyear process of approving a constitutional amendment is to continue.
Earll, who sponsored the change to the House bill, characterized it as a compromise, but lawmakers and advocates who supported the previous bill passed by the House on June 6 disagreed.
Civil unions are tantamount to marriages, and allowing them would scuttle the intent of the House version if not the whole effort, they said. “I just think this amendment destroys the entire purpose” of a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, said during debate.
Sen. John Gordner, R-Columbia, said a vote to remove the language against civil unions was a vote allowing the courts to create such unions, which he called “judicial activism.”
This articleappeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 16, 2006.