Kenyatta, Benham, Burgos and Flick introduce bipartisan ‘Marriage Equality’ bill

HARRISBURG, April 11 – State Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Danilo Burgos, both D-Phila., Jessica Benham, D-Allegheny, and Jamie Flick, R-Lycoming/Union, are introducing legislation to protect the right of marriage equality against further high court cases that could erode that right and to clean up the statute to be in line with the U.S Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges.  

Marriage was only recently extended to same-sex couples across the United States. While numerous states had previously recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry, it was the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, that made it clear that marriage, and all its privileges and responsibilities, should be available to all. 

Despite the landmark ruling, and same-sex marriage being legal in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth, as well as many other states, retain outdated, unconstitutional and unnecessary sections of law that prohibit marriage equality.

This legislation would update Pennsylvania’s current laws by repealing the section of law that only recognizes marriage as being between a man and woman.

Kenyatta, who serves as co-chair of the Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, said it’s important for the statue of Pennsylvania’s law regarding marriage to reflect Obergefell v. Hodges.

“As the first openly LGBTQ person to get married during their tenure in the General Assembly, I know how special it is, to not only commit to your chosen spouse, but to have that recognized and protected under law,” Kenyatta said. “Pennsylvania is better when it’s fairer and when we treat all families with respect. The Supreme Court has ruled that same sex marriage is legal, but our statues must change to reflect that. Now is the time to fix this in a bipartisan way, as we did last term with removing homosexuality from the Crimes Code.”

Benham, who is the other co-chair of the Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, echoed Kenyatta’s sentiment and said that along with same-sex marriage, there needs to be a focus on marriage equality for individuals with disabilities.

“Same-sex marriage is legal and recognized in Pennsylvania, but some of our state laws still define marriage as only between a man and a woman,” said Benham. “It makes sense to update the language of our laws to reflect the modern definition of marriage and we should do so out of respect for same-sex couples in the commonwealth. There is still work to do, primarily at the federal level, to ensure that individuals with disabilities also have the right to marry.”

Burgos said that moving marriage equality forward can help move Pennsylvania forward.

“We are the voice of the people and the people and our needs as a society have evolved. There are many archaic sections regarding marriage that we need to reevaluate and modernize; it is long overdue. Pennsylvanians deserve marriage equality. My colleagues, and I are determined to move the commonwealth forward,” Burgos said.   

“I am proud to work with my colleagues on this legislation that I am sure will open the doors to many other rights and benefits for same-sex couples.”

This legislation has bipartisan support as Flick, a Republican representative, has joined as a prime sponsor.

“I believe Pennsylvanians should have the freedom to marry whom they choose. The United States Constitution grants all people this right, per the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling,” Flick said. “And over 70% of Americans agree that same-sex couples should have the same rights and privileges to marry as traditional couples. As such, I fully support updating our current state laws to ensure marriage equality for all Pennsylvanians.”