On Thursday greeting-card stores, pharmacies and candy shops all over Pennsylvania were swarmed with last-minute shoppers snapping up candy and sweet treats for their loved ones. Florists were overwhelmed with bargain hunters left over from Christmas who are more than willing to spend $25 or more for a bouquet of roses that will be wilted by Feb. 21. Lovers all over Pennsylvania celebrated their fondness and affection for one another, and wedding chapels from Philadelphia to Erie had people stampeding, two-stepping or just gently strolling to the altar to wed.
I applaud the lovers and the couples who are making the commitment to spend their lives (or part of their lives) together. I applaud the couples who are celebrating their honeymoons and anniversaries this year. I would like to be able to applaud the LGBT couples who are marrying right here in Pennsylvania. In some churches, I can do just that. However, in any county courthouse, or at any justice of the peace anywhere in Pennsylvania, I will have to wait for another Valentine’s Day.
We deserve marriage equality, and we demand it. Why is it that important? Love does not concern itself with gender. Love does not care about sexual identity. Love is the reason for people to wed, or at least it should be. The love of one woman for another, or two men in love, is not an imitation of love. It is love. The unending sacrifices made by couples who care for and support one another is not a decision made lightly by either partner within a couple. Gay men and lesbian women in committed relationships are aware of the opportunity they want afforded to them. For lack of any reason except discrimination, gay and lesbian couples are barred from marrying. We seek to change that.
— David E. Moore
Founder, Marriage Equality for PA
To the Editor:
Marriage is an important covenantal relationship recognized and supported by the commonwealth, but in its laws and policies, Pennsylvania wrongly excludes lesbian and gay people from this recognition and support. Our neighbors north and south, namely New York and Maryland, support and allow marriage equality. Why do we deny this right to LGBT Pennsylvanians?
Marriage offers many legal benefits and responsibilities that protect families. It also provides societal status and emotional benefits. Marriage offers 1,138 federal benefits and responsibilities, not including hundreds more offered by every state. In times of crisis, spouses have hospital-visitation rights and can make medical decisions in event of illness or disability of their spouse. Employers offer spouses sick leave, bereavement leave, access to health insurance and pension.
The law provides certain automatic rights to a person’s spouse regardless of whether or not a will exists. Married couples in elder-care facilities are generally not separated unless one spouse’s health dictates hospitalization or special care. The dissolution of a marriage requires a determination of property distribution, award of child-custody support and spousal support. Absent divorce, there is no uniform system for sorting out the ending of a relationship.
Married couples are permitted to give an unlimited amount of gifts to each other without being taxed. The law presumes that a married couple with both names on the title to their home owns the property as “tenants by the entirety.” A married couple, by statute, has creditor protection of their marital home. Many married people are entitled to financial benefits relating to their spouses, such as disability, pension and Social Security benefits. With marriage, a couple has the right to be treated as an economic unit and to file joint tax returns (and pay the marriage penalty), and obtain joint health, home and auto insurance policies. When a spouse dies, there is no need to prove ownership of every item for taxable purposes.
A child who grows up with married parents benefits from the fact that his or her parents’ relationship is recognized by law and receives legal protections. Spouses are generally entitled to joint child custody and visitation upon divorce (and bear an obligation to pay child support). Parents should be judged on their ability to parent, not by their age, race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
For adults, a stable, happy marriage is the best protector against illness and premature death. Studies on marriages have found that married people live longer, have higher incomes and wealth, engage less in risky behaviors, eat healthier and have fewer psychological problems than unmarried people. Research shows that unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well-being than married couples.
To deny marriage to a class of people, namely to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Pennsylvanians, denies legal equality, which is a basis of our government. I strongly urge the citizens of this commonwealth to consider and support marriage equality in Pennsylvania.
— Dug Swank