Separate but equal
May 29, 2014 | 643 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At the beginning of last week, same-sex couples in Pennsylvania had next to nothing in terms of rights: They couldn’t file taxes jointly, they had to undergo added adoption procedures, they had unequal access to health-care benefits and spousal-incentive programs, they were treated as strangers when it came to inheritance and real-estate transfer tax ... and the list goes on. All of that on top of the simple fact that they were prevented from having their love and commitment to one another validated by their state government.

All of that changed last week. Now, same-sex couples are free to marry in Pennsylvania. They will have equal access in all areas affected by marital status — taxes, adoption, inheritance, property rights, health care, etc. The landscape for same-sex couples literally changed almost 180 degrees in a moment.

But, the fact remains that in the great majority of the state, LGBT people can be fired, denied housing or barred entrance to a public place simply because of being LGBT. Pennsylvania is the only state that has marriage equality but yet does not have a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation; two other marriage states also lack a law banning gender-identity discrimination.

This imbalance puts Pennsylvania in a very strange spot. Same-sex couples now can be issued a marriage license at their city hall but have a local venue refuse to rent them a hall to host their reception. They can add one another to their employer health-care plan but may lose their jobs anyway after announcing their wedding to coworkers. They can use their wedding gift money to hunt for a new apartment, but be denied that space because of their relationship.

Pennsylvania needed a marriage-equality law. But that doesn’t mean that’s all we need. We desperately need a basic nondiscrimination law — to protect not just same-sex couples but all LGBT people, who deserve the same freedoms and liberties that Judge John Jones wrote about in his landmark ruling last week.

May 20 marked a new day in Pennsylvania’s LGBT-rights movement, but it certainly didn’t mark the last day. This victory should be celebrated, but it should also be utilized to attain other victories — most pressing, the passage of an LGBT nondiscrimination law.

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