Sunday Forum: Gay marriage in Pennsylvania
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In this life, I am many things. I am a son to my father, Charles, and my mother, Deloris. I am a brother to my brothers, Chuck and Jim. I am a grandson to my grandparents, Charles and Helen and Blanch and George. I am a nephew to my numerous aunts and uncles. And I am the best uncle in the world to my niece and nephew, Kaliegh and Chase, whom I love more than I can tell you today.
We must protect marriage between a man and a woman as a fundamental institution of society, argues Bishop DAVID A. ZUBIK
I am a business owner, employer, taxpayer, home owner and designer by trade. I am a "closeted" carpenter and find unbelievable gratification in the art of building; in watching a project morph from one stage to the next until I have the satisfaction of having fashioned something from nothing.
I am an artist, always seeking that which lifts us up to our highest and best purpose. I am deeply involved in bettering my community and am an avid volunteer with community groups.
I am a preservationist and have deep respect for that which has gone before us, as well as a champion for responsible use and reuse of our natural resources.
I am a champion, always, for the underdog. Wherever I find it, I fight against social injustice and for equality for all people.
I am a lover of animals, music and the arts and cannot imagine living in a world without them.
I am a duly elected member of Pittsburgh City Council, voted by a majority of the people to represent the 3rd District, and a colleague to the other eight members of council, beside whom I proudly serve.
And I am a gay man.
But, if you were to listen to the hate speech of Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern to learn about who I am, you would learn that, in her own words, speaking directly about me, in a speech to her peers, "Gays are infiltrating City Council ... in Pittsburgh, Pa. ... [and that I] ... am a cancer that spreads [and] will destroy this nation ... [and] ... the biggest threat this nation faces, even more than terrorists and Islam."
Today, once again, by the actions of our Pennsylvania General Assembly, I am reminded that the last, socially acceptable targets of discrimination within our society are gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. With Senate Bill 1250, Pennsylvania state legislators, under the guise of morality and religiosity, seek to amend the constitution of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to read: "No union other than a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage or the functional equivalent of marriage by the commonwealth."
With all the challenges that we, as a commonwealth, are facing -- deteriorating infrastructure; staggering health-care costs; municipalities crippled by the inability or unwillingness of legislators to ensure that nonprofits contribute toward ever escalating municipal service costs; rampant gun violence; and corruption in government -- certain Pennsylvania state legislators would like us to believe that defining marriage and outlawing civil union is our most pressing legislative priority.
In reality this is their mark of shame.
Legislating a ban on same-sex marriage or civil unions is homophobia, bigotry and sanctioned discrimination of a selected class of people. I would liken homophobia to racism, sexism and anti-Semitism because it seeks to dehumanize people and deny them their dignity, personhood and equal protection under the law. In the year 2008, would you dare to legislate to deny marriage or civil union based on race, creed, age or ethnicity?
This need not become a mark of shame, but rather a call to courage -- the courage to overcome fear and injustice. Choosing the right thing to do is not always popular or easy, but standing for what is right and true and just, especially when it is unpopular, is the true test of moral character.
Today I ask you, as members of the state General Assembly, with the power to end this discrimination before it can go any further, to not only vote against SB 1250, but to speak out against it and the intolerance, prejudice and discrimination it represents.
First Published April 27, 2008 12:00 am