Pennsylvania House advances same-sex marriage equality bill

The Pennsylvania state flag
The Pennsylvania state flag. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

By Kim Lyons

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill that would protect same-sex marriage in the commonwealth, by repealing an invalid section of state law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. 

The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed bans on same-sex marriage a decade ago, but House Bill 2269 would remove the outdated language that remains in Pennsylvania’s statute.

“For me, Madam Speaker, I don’t rise today to ask anybody to vote any way other than what their heart dictates,” Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), the bill’s author, said on the House floor, adding he didn’t necessarily seek anyone’s acceptance or respect for his marriage.

“What I want and what this bill is about is Pennsylvania, and our law reflecting settled jurisprudence, which said: I’m able to go home to the man that I love and call him my husband because he is. If you still want to fight a cultural war, if you’re still mad about my marriage, that is for you, for your God, for your diary, for your whatever.”

Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton) spoke in opposition to the bill, saying “marriage is not a civil contract between two individuals,” but rather a “sacred covenant institution created by God between a man and a woman.” 

“This is not hate, though the news media portray it as that.” Borowicz continued. “This is the Judeo-Christian values and principles this nation is founded on, and marriage and family are one of those bedrocks.”

Rep. Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny), said as a proud queer woman and pastor’s daughter, she was urging support for the bill. She noted that laws around religious freedom already protect religious institutions that don’t want to conduct same-sex weddings “and besides, who wants to get married in an environment that doesn’t support and celebrate you?”

“Throughout this commonwealth, there are loving couples raising families together who don’t deserve to ever have their family torn apart because court decisions have been overturned,” Benham added. 

“I’m asking my colleagues to vote yes on this legislation, because there are young people watching our world today who are afraid, afraid they will never fit in, that they’ll never be accepted, never be loved for who they are,” Benham continued, “and those young people deserve to know that there are people who look like them, love like them, and live like them, who are fighting for their fundamental freedoms here in their state capital.”

The language defining marriage in Section 1704 of Pennsylvania’s Domestic Relations Act was declared invalid following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Under that ruling, the federal government can’t discriminate against married same-sex couples when determining federal benefits and protections.

President Joe Biden signed a marriage equality law in 2022, to ensure same-sex and interracial couples would continue to hold many of their existing rights if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the cases that established those constitutional protections.

House Bill 2269 passed by a vote of 133-68. It now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration.

Kim Lyons is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this article first appeared.

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