HARRISBURG -- About 25 people, some gay and some straight, gathered on the steps of the Capitol rotunda Monday and chanted, "Pennsylvania can't you see -- what equality means to me."
They were proponents of same-sex marriage and came here to support Senate Bill 935, by Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, which would permit gays and lesbians to marry and would give them hundreds of other rights under state and federal law that heterosexual couples have always had.
"Through legislative initiatives and previous calls to action, I've fought long and hard to secure the same rights (for) same-sex couples that are offered to married men and women," Mr. Leach said at a news conference.
He said that while many people oppose gay marriage, no one has yet been able to give him a valid reason for such opposition. He said he didn't think bigotry was the primary reason.
Mr. Leach said some people cite Bible passages against gay marriage, but said there are also statements in the Bible prohibiting people from wearing clothes made of more than one kind of cloth, or passages allowing slavery -- sentiments Mr. Leach contends are outdated.
"Some people say 'my God doesn't want gay marriage,' " he said. "But we don't live in a theocracy. And besides, my God believes in gay marriage."
He said some opponents fear that legalizing gay marriage "will lead to marriage between people and animals, or between people and their kitchen appliances, or increase pedophilia, but it won't."
He also disputed claims that legalizing gay marriage would "destroy traditional marriage" between a man and a woman. He said laws outlawing gay marriage are "the last bastion of society-sanctioned discrimination."
He said five states and the District of Columbia, plus 23 other counties, now permit same-sex marriage. But he likely will have a hard time persuading his colleagues to legalize gay marriages. The Senate, controlled by Republicans, often takes conservative stands on social issues.
Conservative religious groups also tend to oppose gay marriage. The legislation now pending would not, however, require religious institutions to recognize any marriages that they don't wish to sanction.
Gay marriage supporters also held a rally and march in Downtown Harrisburg Monday, part of a weeklong series of events called Freedom to Marry Week.
Mr. Leach said same-sex couples should not be "treated as a second-class group of citizens."
Bureau Chief Tom Barnes: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-4254.