Sen. Carolyn Comitta

HARRISBURG, PA May 7, 2024 – Members of the Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups gathered at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Tuesday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of marriage equality for same-sex couples in Pennsylvania and the need to codify these protections into law.

Same-sex marriage was officially recognized in Pennsylvania on May 20, 2014, after a federal court judge ruled Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage equality as unconstitutional. The decision came just over a year before the landmark US Supreme Court case, Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

“Safeguarding the ability of our most loved one to officially be legally recognized has far-reaching implications – like the ability to be the one to make healthcare decisions if necessary, raise children together in a way that recognizes the rights of both parents, and to have a simpler path to sharing a financial future that doesn’t involve complicated legal wrangling,” said Representative Jessica Benham, co-chair of the PA LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “When we talk about marriage equality, it is important to note that there is still a group of people who do not have full access to marriage rights. Until individuals with disabilities can get married without losing their social security disability or healthcare benefits, marriage equality is not the law of the land for all. I look forward to continuing to work toward a future where all families, no matter the structure, are recognized and celebrated in our Commonwealth.”

While the court decisions struck the ban, language remains within Pennsylvania’s laws that would ban same-sex marriage should both court decisions be overturned.

“One of my favorite experiences was presiding over weddings as Mayor of West Chester. I have fond memories of all the couples that asked me to help celebrate love” Comitta said. “When marriage equality came to Pennsylvania, it was an especially moving and emotional experience seeing lifelong partners who, after years of waiting, could finally affirm their union in marriage. But history has shown that we cannot rely solely on the courts to fix the gaps in our laws. It’s long past time to remove outdated legal language in favor of affirming marriage equality in Pennsylvania law.”

Legislation set to be introduced by Rep. Kenyatta and Rep. Benham in the state house and introduced by Sen. Comitta in the Senate, would strike the language from Pennsylvania’s laws and affirm the right to same-sex marriage in the commonwealth.

“The time is now for same sex marriage to be recognized and protected under Pennsylvania law,” said Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, co-chair of the PA LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “As the first openly LGBTQ person to get married during their tenure in the General Assembly, I know how important that is. Every Pennsylvanian deserves to live in a commonwealth that is fair and where all families are treated with respect.”

The legislators were joined in celebration by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, which highlighted the need for greater legislative protections.

“At a time when two thirds of Pennsylvanians support marriage equality and multiple courts have established it as the law of the land, it is sad that the commonwealth still has prohibitions against same-sex unions on the books,” said Ryan Matthews, Pennsylvania State Director of the Human Rights Campaign. “As we mark 10 years of marriage equality in Pennsylvania, HRC’s over 30,000 members and supporters in the state applaud Sen. Comitta for introducing legislation to right this wrong.”