At a swanky cocktail party in Bryn Mawr, you’d never expect to run smack into one of the state’s biggest controversies, but we did Saturday.
To the surprise of almost everyone in state government and the LGBT community, a Pennsylvania state senator issued a statement that he was going to introduce a marriage-equality bill in the state Senate. You saw it on our front page last Friday. That was big news — especially in a state where we have to battle to keep our legislature from amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage.
This senator, without consulting anyone, issued a press release on May 27, stating his intention to introduce the bill.
And, not even a week later, I ran into him at a social event, where I was able to quiz him about his motivations.
Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat representing Delaware and Montgomery counties, said the bill would offer “full and equal marriage rights” to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania. Under the new legislation, Pennsylvania would also recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.
In his statement, Leach noted the recent legislation in New Hampshire and Maine, adding, “It is time for Pennsylvania to act.”
“In the past few weeks, several states have legalized same-sex marriage, and many will soon follow suit,” Leach said. “There has never been a more propitious time for Pennsylvania to embrace equality and enshrine the civil right of all Pennsylvanians to marry.”
Leach’s bill, which has yet to be introduced, would not require religious institutions to perform or recognize any marriages they do not wish to sanction. Additionally, the legislation would “dissolve all of the barriers to building families that gay and lesbian couples currently face, both at the state and federal level.”
“The alternative to legalizing same-sex marriage is retaining our current, archaic protocol, which treats an entire group of citizens as second-class,” Leach said. “This protocol denies the reality of same-sex families, many of whom have children. It provides no vehicle by which society can encourage gay couples to do what it encourages straight couples to do: namely, to form permanent, monogamous and committed life-long partnerships.”
When I read the release, I immediately went to his Web site — since, like most of you, I hadn’t any idea who he was. And that’s where I thought it would end. Then, our surprise meeting.
Let me be very clear: I have not seen a politician in Pennsylvania who has cared about our rights on this level since Gov. Milton Shapp — in 1973. Leach did this out of fairness, and had no political motive. He also knows that it will most likely be defeated, but realizes the legislation itself can start the dialogue.
Since we haven’t moved one legislative inch in Harrisburg since 1973, this is a refreshing turn of events.
Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].