As states in the Northeast legalize gay marriage, Pennsylvania remains stagnate in the push for equality among the GLBT community.
As many states in the Northeast, most recently New York, take the final step in legalizing gay marriage, it seems Pennsylvania is lagging behind in the tremendously overdue fight for equal rights in the GLBT community. As the stale argument continues that marriage is a sacred act between man and woman, Pennsylvania residents need to team up to tear down the discrimination.
The majority of my friends identify as members of the GLBT community, and it is not only upsetting, but sickening to know that they are not afforded the same rights as me. It seems obvious that two people, regardless of their sex, race or religion should be able to recognize their relationship, which in theory could not hurt or negatively affect anyone outside of that partnership.
“I think that marriage is an important expression of dignity that all people should have access to,” said Dr. Margaux Cowden, advising coordinator for the GLBT studies minor at Temple.
Cowden explains that material and financial benefits are also added on to the personal benefits a state can provide in recognizing gay unions. Cowden added that the diverse population of people in Pennsylvania makes it difficult to come to a final decision about the legalization of gay marriage.
Yet, it’s not just a matter of conservative vs. liberal viewpoints, but rather an outright attempt to deny an entire group of the population’s right to legally declare their love for one another due to a fear of the unfamiliar.
“Homophobia and heterosexism are forces that are much bigger than marriage,” Cowden said. “Marriage is not going to fix the diffuse set of problems that work together to produce homophobia.”
While it is true the GLBT population faces intolerance, bullying and an abundance of tough obstacles to overcome, it’s about time Pennsylvania gives them a break by setting an example of acceptance for its residents. One piece of legislation cannot wipe out the bigotry embedded in our country’s outlook on sexuality, but it can encourage a more accepting way of thinking.
I would like to remain positive that Pennsylvania will soon follow suit, however it is vital GLBT members and supporters stand up and continue to fight for gay rights in general.
“The more [GLBT] people are out, and are in dialogue with the rest of the community, the more that we can begin to dispel people’s fears and really break down some of the conflict that exists around this particular issue,” Cowden said.
I recently attended the GLBT Pride Parade and Festival in Philadelphia, and while it was incredible to see so much encouragement for the community, I think we can do better. We need to all ban together to show the rest of Pennsylvania how important equality is for the state.
Cowden suggested getting in touch with representatives, signing petitions, voting and supporting gay-marriage Senate Bill 461, which according to a June Philadelphia Weekly article “PA at Embarrassing Standstill on Gay Marriage,” was introduced by state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17) and has been sitting in committee since February 2011.
Now more than ever, Pennsylvania needs to hop on the same-sex bandwagon, partner up with the more progressive Northeastern states and step forward for gay rights. Let’s set an example for our country instead of accepting the inequality.
Cary Carr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.