Three Republican senators crossed the
aisle Tuesday to help defeat a Pennsylvania resolution that sought to
define marriage as a heterosexual union in the state constitution.
The 8-to-6 vote in favor of tabling the
measure in the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee
leaves the joint resolution on limited life support.
Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. first
announced he would sponsor the resolution in May of last year but
postponed its introduction until January due to the economy, the
conservative lawmaker said.
Eichelberger's resolution would insert
the following language into the state constitution: “Only a union
of one man and one woman shall be valid and recognized as a marriage
in this Commonwealth.”
But three Republican and five
Democratic lawmakers disagreed. Joining all the committee's
Democrats in killing the resolution were Republicans Pat Browne, Jane
Earll and Mary Jo White.
Keystone Progress, a group that opposed
the measure, claimed victory after the vote.
“We should celebrate, but we need to
remain vigilant,” Michael
Morrill said on the group's blog. “It is unlikely, but it is
possible that the bill could come to life again.”
The group said its members responded to
a call to action with over 120,000 emails and thousands more calls
and letters urging committee members to reject the measure.
Pennsylvania voters – like much of
the country – are clearly divided on the issue. According to a
2009 Franklin & Marshall statewide poll, 48% of respondents
support defining marriage as a heterosexual union in the state
constitution, while 46% said they were opposed. However, a majority
of voters (58%) support civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
Currently, Pennsylvania bans gay
marriage by law, which anti-gay marriage foes say leaves the law
vulnerable to being overturned
by a judge.