Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill today at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown that makes it easier for victims of intimate-partner violence to get divorced.
Adrian Shanker, executive director of the LGBT center, witnessed the signing, as did Lori G. Sywensky, executive director of Turning Point of Lehigh Valley, an organization that helps those affected by domestic violence. Turning Point rents space from the LGBT center, which opened this month at 522 W. Maple St. The organization has additional administrative offices elsewhere in Allentown.
“It was a huge honor to have the governor here,” Shanker told PGN. “The governor sees the value in having LGBT community centers.”
Sywensky said Turning Point is really committed to its partnership with the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT center.
"We liked the message that this law isn't gender specific," she said.
People in same-sex or opposite-sex couples can take advantage of the new legislation, which allows a person to divorce an abusive spouse without participating in counseling sessions sometimes mandated in cases where both partners do not consent to end the marriage. Before the law, the divorce process could span two years.
Shanker noted the intimate-partner violence bill passed unanimously in the state House and Senate.
“It was the epitome of how you can win progress,” he said. “These are rare opportunities in Pennsylvania to see well-intentioned, noncontroversial bills that protect people become law.”
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, a Lehigh County Democrat, is the lead sponsor of the bill. He said the governor signing it into law at an LGBT center was important to include LGBT couples in the conversations around protecting people from domestic violence.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality last year, Schlossberg said, “We’re going to wind up having more conversations about LGBT victims of intimate-partner violence. Previous to the Supreme Court decision, there wasn’t a mainstream space for this conversation.”