Pennsylvania’s Brilliant Peter Pan Argument


Last week, Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Corbett visited Bucks County, my home county, to preside over the groundbreaking of a Pennsylvania turnpike expansion project, a rare glimmer of positivity in the otherwise abysmal term of Pennsylvania’s Most Awful Governor Ever.  [Corbett’s approval rating hovers consistently in the 20s and he’s scored his own MoveOn resignation petition with close to 3000 signatures which is actually huge in The Meh State.]

Poor Tom should have been popping champagne corks but the damn lamestream media on hand for the festivities were only interested in gay marriage.  Corbett mumbled stuff about “relevance to the event” but reporters insisted on a bigger story.

See, Pennsylvania, and next-door neighbor New Jersey, are the last strongholds in the Northeast, of states sanctioning behavior unbecoming to the Constitution.  New Jersey tried its best to escape that dubious distinction but Governor Christie vetoed the legislature’s marriage equality efforts to beef up his conservative bona fides. 

Pennsylvania doesn’t allow same-sex marriages or same-sex civil unions neither does it recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Gay couples in Pennsylvania have no marriage or domestic partnership rights whatsoever.  Not to mention the fact that Pennsylvania is the last state in the Northeast with NO prohibitions against discrimination, hate crimes, or bullying based on sexual orientation.”

Not only can I not marry my partner of 25 years, in my state, I can also be fired for having a picture of my gay family—me, my partner, and my son—on my desk.

Nevertheless, Corbett’s stand on gay marriage in his state has become a very sticky wicket that is probably the last thing he needs going in to his highly improbable re-election bid. 

Shortly after SCOTUS blew away DOMA and Prop 8, the American Civil Liberties Union—recognizing low-hanging fruit when they see it—brought a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban, aiming to apply the Supreme Court’s late-June decision that DOMA is unconstitutional.

Whereupon, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Kathleen Kane announced that she was having nothing to do with defending PA’s 1996 DOMA-copycat law, forcing Corbett to come up with his own legal team to fight the pending ACLU suit.

Meanwhile, the Montgomery County Register of Wills, D. Bruce Hanes, emboldened by AG Kane’s pronouncement, started handing out marriage licenses to same sex couples; and a handful of rogue mayors, scattered throughout the state, have officiated at the resulting same-sex marriages.

All of this has engendered the expected social mayhem: large numbers of same-sex couples showing up to apply for marriage licenses, at the one courthouse where they are being issued, must wade through small-scale, but big-mouthed protests to get inside.  Late last week, the Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania held a “pray-in” at the clerk’s office, arguing that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples represents a “war on children.”  Still . . .  no biggie for gay people who have dealt with far worse.

Gov. Corbett’s response to all of this has been to pursue a court order to stop Bruce Hanes from issuing any more marriage licenses to gay couples.  The action was initiated by the PA Department of Health, which oversees marriage licenses, and alleges that Hanes’ stance on marriage licenses could lead to “illegal claims or benefits” [money, in other words] and cause “untold harm to the public.”

Montgomery County has now responded to the lawsuit, claiming that Commonwealth Court has no jurisdiction in the case, the Department of Health has no standing, and there’s no clear “right to relief.”

County solicitor Ray McGarry explains the county’s position this way:

What we have here is a situation where Bruce Hanes took an oath of office that required him to fulfill the duties of his office by following the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution.

So he was left in a situation where there was a statute which says that he can’t do something, and the Constitution, which both he believes and the Attorney General had stated that she believed was unconstitutional. So when you are left in a dilemma deciding between the laws, he decided the Constitution was the law that he should follow.

Yesterday, Gov. Corbett’s attorneys filed a final brief stating that the gay marriage licenses issued by Hanes have no “value or legitimacy.”

But here’s the best part—the reason the State deems the licenses illegitimate?

Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old ... is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his `license’?”

OK, now we’re talking some serious Republican legal genius—gays are like children, not allowed to get married.

On the other hand, for children, that isn’t a life sentence.  Children eventually grow into the right to marry and all of the benifits and privileges that marriage bestows.  According to the State of Pennsylvania, gays are this odd sub-class of Peter Pan citizens that never grow up so can never have the right to marry.

Now, if we take this argument to it’s logical ends, there are lots of unexpected things that might apply to the Peter Pan citizens . . . do child labor laws apply? are gays eligible for child protective services? and what about all of those gay bars? should gays be allowed to drink? or drive? for that matter.  How about voting? and gay porn, should that be considered child pornography?

Hard to say where such legal ruminations might lead . . .

The hearing has been scheduled for September 4, 2013 in Commonwealth Court.

And Pennsylvanians’ big opportunity to rid themselves of Governor Flintstone will be coming up in 2014. 

Can’t wait.

Posted by Bette Noir on 08/29/13 at 09:09 AM • Permalink

Categories: LGBTPoliticsBqhatevwrElection '14

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Aren’t Republicans supposed to be the ones against a nanny state that infantilizes its citizens?

Damn, they love moving the goalposts.

I’m going to enjoy watching Corbett lose his re-election campaign.  Couldn’t happen to a more deserving pecksniff.

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