FUMO DECRIES PASSAGE OF GAY MARRIAGE AMENDMENT, BUT HELPS PREVENT ADDITIONAL DISCRIMINATION
HARRISBURG, June 21, 2006 – State Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) expressed grave disappointment that the Senate today approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, but was pleased that the body defeated attempts to make the bill even more discriminatory toward gays and lesbians.
The vote in the Senate was 38-12, but because the legislation (HB 2381) was changed in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week before coming to the floor of the Senate for final passage, it must now go back to the House of Representatives, where it originated, to be considered again. If the House passes the identical bill, it would then have to be approved again by the new legislature that takes office in January 2007, then be approved by voters of the state in a referendum before it would be embodied in the state constitution.
Fumo spoke ardently against the measure, arguing that it is wrong to put into the state constitution a provision that discriminates against any group of people.
"Constitutions are supposed to protect that rights of minorities, not take them away," Fumo said.
"If we are a country and a state that is really about equal protection for all, that means all, not just the way the majority wants to define it. When you allow discrimination against any one human being, you open the door eventually for it to be allowed to be portrayed against you," he added.
Quoting founding father James Madison, an author of the Federalist Papers, Fumo said: "It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part . . . In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may truly be said to reign."
With Fumo helping lead the debate, the Senate defeated two attempts that would have made the provision much worse, by reverting to the version that had passed the House. That version could have prevented civil unions and other arrangements akin to marriage, and been used to deny many social benefits to gays and others who live together without being married.
An effort to revert to the House-passed version, and another to include similar language, were defeated on votes of 19-31 and 23-27, respectively.
"While I still voted against this terrible constitutional amendment, I was happy that we were able to defeat attempts to make it much more oppressive toward gays, and toward others, such as heterosexual senior citizens who live together without being married in order to protect their Social Security benefits," Fumo said.
While proponents of the bill called it a "defense of marriage" amendment, Fumo questioned whether the provision was necessary to protect the institution of marriage. If any traditional marriage is threatened by two gay people being in a loving relationship, he said, then it must be a weak marriage. If the Senate truly wanted to protect the sanctity of marriage, he said, then it would do well to consider a constitutional amendment outlawing divorce.
He said passage of the amendment was a dark day in the Senate, which should not make the state proud.
"Hopefully some day in the future, people will look back on this the way they look back on Mississippi and Alabama in the days of slavery, and be ashamed," Fumo said.
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