It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I sat in the Gold Room at the Allegheny County Courthouse and livetweeted a “hearing” of a subcommittee of the PA Senate on the matter of an amendment to the constitution of our commonwealth to confine marriage only to opposite-sex couples.
That hearing was one of the most frustrating afternoons of my life. The committee didn’t want to hear from the public, who weren’t ever alerted about the event. (I found out about it via twitter purely by accident.) There was a slate of speakers which included the bishop of the Catholic diocese who made exactly the argument one might expect — utter irrelevancies in secular law, but he was given double the speaking time of other speakers — and several anti-equality speakers who weren’t even from Pennsylvania. The bigots flew people in from Virginia and Utah to bolster their arguments which, at their heart, amounted to little more than “tradition!” “religion!” “sanctity!” and all of the usual buzzwords of the anti-equality side.
It was clear which way the wind was blowing when Doris Cipolla spoke from her heart about the life she’s led and discrimination she and her late partner faced and members of the committee, notably the loathsome Joan Orie, couldn’t even be bothered to pay attention. (Orie actually sat at the table and had a side conversation with an aide, rather than excusing herself. It was deplorable and beyond rude.)
Somehow, the bill was tabled and a sigh of relief was breathed.
But like cancer, it was clear it would be back. And now it is, and the senate judiciary committee will vote on this same tired amendment tomorrow.
I’m not sure how to put it better than a quote I blogged on my other Tumblr last week, so I’ll simply share that sentiment again.
“Certainly, such people have no constitutional right to have the state adopt their religious definition of “marriage.” Although they may have a strong religious identification of the word, the word has long had a secular meaning and, indeed, has never belonged to any particular religion or even to religion generally. “Marriage” in our society is a secular term. It may coincide with religious beliefs, but in the law it is not a religious concept, nor could it be. Religious organizations and individuals are authorized to officiate at weddings, but the legal concept of marriage is entirely secular. The phrase “by the power invested in me by the state” is revealing. It is the state that bestows legal recognition to the marriage, not the religion.
Those with religious objections to calling same-sex unions “marriages” are essentially insisting that the state must adopt their religious definition of a legal concept. That is fundamentally incompatible with the separation of church. It is not for religion to define legal concepts.”
– from “Same Sex Marriage and the Meaning of Words” by Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School.
It’s really that simple.