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Pennsylvania Grinds Towards Equality

March 23rd, 2010 1 comment

You might have read that the Pennsylvania Senate’s Judiciary Committee recently rejected a measure to enshrine the state’s law against same-sex marriages in the constitution. You might not have read something quite remarkable about that vote, though: the 8-6 majority in opposition was the same body — with only one change — from the committee that voted for the amendment by a 10-4 vote just two years ago. In other words, three of the ten have switched their vote to the pro-equality side. That’s major progress.

Well, kind of: Keep in mind that the state’s law against same-sex marriages remains firmly in place, and I don’t expect that Senator Daylin Leach’s bill to repeal that law in favor of marriage equality will pass any time soon. I even doubt that more than a few of the eight who voted against the amendment would support marriage equality at this point.

But they’ve at least come to see that impaling inequality into the state’s charter is a very bad idea, because it freezes what they must now be seeing as discrimination in place, making it much harder to undo. So their vote at least suggests an openness to argument, to considering that they may be wrong.

The measure’s proponent, John Eichelberger, was dismayed and confused: “Why they did it, I don’t know, because they are some of the people who were in support of this effort in the past.” Well, people are changed by their experiences and surroundings. As Leach put it:

My colleagues have been feeling increasingly uncomfortably with the idea of us as a state discriminating against an entire class of our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. As time goes by, I think more people are going to be embracing equality and rejecting this kind of discrimination so that everyone in this state can live in peace and with dignity.

That’s a bit Pollyannish in a state that still doesn’t even have an anti-discrimination law in place, but the importance of this vote — and that it signals the likely end of any serious push to amend the state’s constitution — is still to be celebrated. A little.