Republican State Senator: That Language Should Not Be in There

Earlier this week, we featured an entry about an effort in Pennsylvania to push a civil unions and marriage ban. The Pennsylvania House had already passed the measure.

Yesterday, the state Senate Judiciary Committee took up the measure. Turns out some Republicans on the committee were worried about the message it would send if they support a constitutional amendment that would outlaw civil unions.

The committee stripped the amendment of its second sentence. According to an article in a Lancaster newspaper:
State Sen. Jane Earll, a Republican from Erie County, pitched the language changes.

Owen Thomas, a spokesman for Earll, said the changes strengthen the amendment by making the language simpler.

"When legislative language is cloudy and ambiguous, when legal scholars cannot agree to what it means, that language should not be in there," Thomas said. "It will be confusing to the legal experts and the voters."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does a good job of explaining civil unions:
With civil unions, also called domestic partnerships, a couple, usually of the same sex, agree to live faithfully with each other and share resources.

Civil unions are not currently recognized under Pennsylvania law.

"They are committed relationships between two people," said Stacey Sobel of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Philadelphia.

The couple doesn't receive an actual marriage license but does register with the state and receive a document acknowledging the partnership, she said.

The concept began in Vermont in 2000 as an effort "to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples without being called married or having a marriage license," said Larry Frankel, legislative director for the Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Civil unions are sometimes formed by an elderly man and elderly woman who live together but don't want to get married, Ms. Sobel said. Connecticut adopted civil unions in 2005, and several European countries permit them.

"Civil unions have all the same rights and responsibilities as marriage" but without a marriage license, she said.
Wouldn't it have been nice if our state lawmakers had engaged in at least some level of meaningful debate about the full implications of the Wisconsin ban? All but a few ban supporters here consistently refused to talk about it. I think many of them are going to deeply regret their failure to question and rigorously debate this measure. They're going to see that they were out of step with the Wisconsin public by trying to outlaw civil unions.

In Pennsylvania, the newly reworded amendment goes to the full Senate. There is likely to be a showdown between that version and the one passed by the House.

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