Friday, June 28, 2013

Even in My Neck of the Woods, the Religious Right is Mad Over SCOTUS Decisions

On June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and decided that an appeal of a federal court decision that found California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional had no legal standing. Across the nation, supporters of LGBTQ equality were delighted, and homophobes were disgusted.

Reactions are similarly divided in my home state, Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court decision drew praise from Pennsylvania political leaders and LGBTQ rights advocates, such as Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., Rep. Steve McCarter, and the Pennsylvania LGBT Equality Caucus. The historic Supreme Court decisions come at a time when two pro-LGBTQ Pennsylvania lawmakers are proposing a bill to allow same-sex marriage in the Keystone state.

Amidst the joy of pro-LGBTQ Pennsylvanians comes the chagrin of right-wing lawmakers, clergy, and activists who oppose same-sex marriage in the Keystone state. Without further ado, here is a snapshot of Pennsylvania Religious Right reactions to the Supreme Court's decisions.

First, in a June 26th press release, the Pennsylvania Family Institute emphasized its "commitment to preserving the traditional definition of marriage" following the Supreme Court's decisions. The statement lamented the fact that states which have "redefined marriage" have the power to "force that policy on the federal government". Pennsylvania Family Institute president Michael Geer stressed that his organization would resist same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.
"Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as it has always been defined across Western Civilization, remains intact, and Pennsylvania Family Institute will continue to defend it against political and legal assault ... Pennsylvania’s marriage policy is worth defending because it encourages an ideal family structure—marriage—where children can be raised by both a mother and a father.  Same-sex marriage sacrifices that fundamental right of children in favor of notions such as the emotional fulfillment of adults."
Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Pitts (16th District) was similarly disgusted with the ruling. In a June 26th statement on his website, Rep. Pitts repeated the usual right-wing rhetoric about marriage, claiming that the definition of marriage has been static for millennia and that  marriage equality will somehow harm children.
"I cannot disagree more with today’s Supreme Court decision. Congress was well within its rights to define marriage on the federal level as it has been construed for thousands of years. The people of California voted in a fair and free referendum to protect traditional marriage. In both of these cases, the people acted through the democratic process to define marriage as between one man and one woman and now see their decision invalidated by the court.

I believe this will have negative consequences for children, who are best raised by a mother and a father. We redefine marriage at the expense of strong families, the essential building block of our society.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg expressed disapproval of the Supreme Court decisions in a June 26th statement. The diocese insisted that "redefining" marriage serves no one's human rights, arguing " it is not discrimination to treat differently things that are different." Marriage and the well-being of society are at risk, the statement concluded.
"The Church teaches that everyone has inviolable dignity and deserves love and respect.  There are many ways to protect the basic human rights of all, but today’s redefining of marriage serves no one’s rights, least of all those of children.   Everyone should be treated equally, but it is not discrimination to treat differently things that are different.

The difference is the difference. Men and women matter. They are equal but different. Sexual difference is essential to marriage.

We see the issue as not about equality, but rather about the purpose of marriage. We see marriage as a communal good that through the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman can bring life into the world, not one that is simply for the emotional benefit of 2 people.

Marriage belongs not to the State nor to the Church, but is a natural institution which both should recognize. In today’s decisions the State is overreaching in redefining it. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance."
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum was unhappy with the decision, as was to be expected. "[T]he Proposition 8 ruling refuses to affirm the process envisioned by our founders for the American people to express its will. These great moral issues of our time should be left to the democratic process, not to five activist judges," Santorum said in a statement, according to Pennlive.

Pennsylvania has a strong right-wing presence, as these quotes suggest and my own experience has shown me. However, I have faith in enlightened Pennsylvanians and want to see LGBTQ rights blossom in the state. Supporters of equality in Pennsylvania will have to go up against retrograde attitudes such as these, but I firmly believe that the struggle can be won.

(Hat tip to WGAL 8)


  1. Many people don't realize how widespread bigotry like this is. I'm sure there will be backlash here in CA too. Thanks for bringing this to your readers' attention.

    1. Donna -- While I'm all for celebrating this victory, we still need to be vigilant. The fight isn't over.

  2. Uh, marriage is a "natural institution"? What?? It seems to me there couldn't be a more manufactured "institution"!!

    Nice bigotry! :P


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