In the fight for marriage equality, advocates are calling for support from Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Casey.
The Freedom to Marry, Courage Campaign and Equality Pennsylvania are calling on Casey to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act. That legislation seeks to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and allows states to also ignore marriages that are ratified in other states.
The groups, along with a same-sex couple from Central Pennsylvania, are circulating a petition that they plan to deliver to Casey.
"The repeal of DOMA is a high priority and should be," says Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania. "It's an offensive thing."
A Democrat, Casey has a reputation for being conservative on social issues, due in no small part to a prolife stance consistent with his Catholic faith. Sex columnist and LGBT activist Dan Savage derided Casey as an "empty suit" in a City Paper interview earlier this year.
But when it comes to actual legislation, Casey has supported some LGBT positions. The Human Rights Campaign gives his legislative record a perfect 100, and Martin points out that Casey has "stepped up" on a variety of LGBT issues.
But when compared to those votes, gay marriage is a much mores sensitive issue. (Fellow Senator Pat Toomey, a staunch Republican, also voted to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell -- and he's not exactly an LGBT advocate.) We have a call in to Casey's office for his position on this, and we'll post it as soon as it comes along.
Martin says the legislator is "seriously thinking on the issue." Casey is up for a reelection fight in 2012, and Martin acknowledges that legislators are facing a "tough political climate." Pennsylvania also has its own state-level DOMA, which voids same-sex unions even if they are performed in states where it is legal, like New York. And as City Paper reported in September, there almost 1,000 federal and 600 state level rights that same-sex couples can't get.
Pennsylvania also offers no protections to those discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity; the legislature has yet to pass an anti-discrimination bill introduced by state Rep Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) for a third time.
Such factors, Martin says, need to be addressed if there's going to be a statewide repeal of Pennsylvania's DOMA: "It's pretty hard to specifically talk about marriage without talking about how bad we treat LGBT people in Pennsylvania."