A key Pennsylvania Senate committee
will take up the issue of gay marriage on Tuesday, the AP reported.
Members of the Senate Judiciary
Committee will consider Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr's joint
resolution that aims to define marriage as a heterosexual union in
the state constitution, effectively outlawing gay marriage and
blocking the state Supreme Court from legalizing the institution.
Eichelberger announced the effort last
May during a press conference held on the steps of the Blair County
Courthouse in Hollidaysburg. The freshman senator represents
Pennsylvania's 30th district, which includes Blair County.
Introduction of the bill was postponed until January due to the
economy, Eichelberger said.
“Pennsylvania voters have the
opportunity to decide how they want marriage to be defined and not
allow an activist judge to make that decision for them,” the
Republican senator said in a statement. “Thirty one other states
have already gone through a similar process and in each state, the
definition of marriage was upheld.”
The 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
“It's a simple matter of civil
rights,” Michael Morill of Keystone
Progress, a group that opposes the bill, told Metro
International. “The Supreme Court, when it struck down
interracial marriage bans, it realized marriage is one of the basic
rights of society. Today, almost nobody thinks it's right to prevent
people from getting married for artificial distinctions on race.”
Amending Pennsylvania's constitution
requires the approval of two consecutive legislative sessions,
followed by the approval of voters. The earliest voters could see
the issue on the ballot is 2011.
Passage in the Republican-controlled
Senate appears to be a given, but the proposal might encounter
turbulence from Democratic leaders in the House, who control the
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.
Indiana lawmakers are considering
a similar measure.