A Decade of Love Pennsylvania Celebrates 10 Years of Same-sex Marriage Rights

A Decade of Love: Pennsylvania Celebrates 10 Years of Same-sex Marriage Rights

On Monday, May 20, same-sex marriage will have been legal in Pennsylvania for ten years. Extra measures are now being taken by state legislators to safeguard such rights and eliminate antiquated legal terminology that could render certain marriages void.

Co-chairing the LGBTQ+ caucus of the state legislature is state representative Jessica Benham (D-South Side).

A recently launched bipartisan initiative that would remove language from state statutes declaring marriage is only between a man and a woman has her as a sponsor.

“Our laws are still written to define marriage as between one man and one woman,” Benham added. “We would fall back to a system where some folks’ marriage, it wouldn’t be considered valid if a court decision in Pennsylvania overturned that right.”

Nat Yap and his spouse are among the couples Benham and Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who also sponsors the bill, want to ensure are protected at the state level. More than ten years ago, Yap and his spouse moved to Pennsylvania, but their out-of-state marriage license was not accepted by the state.

Yap stated, “When we first moved here, it was very difficult, to be honest, to be married under the state of California law, but not recognized in many other states including Pennsylvania.”

Yap and his spouse were married in California many years before Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage prohibition was declared unlawful on May 20, 2014.

We did have legitimate worries, Yap added.

Same-sex marriage was made legal in all 50 states by the U.S. Supreme Court around a year later. Though court rulings overturned the prohibition, Yap fears for his two small children should their rights to marital equality be jeopardized.

Pennsylvania state statutes still contain language that, should both court rulings be reversed, forbids same-sex marriage.

Yap added, “Court decisions can be reversed and the right to same-sex marriage could go. We shall do all in our ability to ensure their safety because our family is just like everyone else’s. Among other things, that means making sure we cast ballots in every election.

Later this year, Yap and his husband will commemorate their sixteenth wedding anniversary in Shadyside. Yap said the measure will guarantee LGBTQ married couples in the commonwealth the same rights as everyone else.

“Enacting laws that codify these things ensures that everyone is treated equally and conveys the message to everyone that we are equal,” he said.

The Judiciary Committee is debating the measure to safeguard same-sex unions.

“Ultimately, what I would like to see is that we enshrine protections for people on the state level, whether we are talking about the right for folks to marry who they love or the right for women to access healthcare,” Benham stated. “We must ensure that state action is being taken to safeguard those rights.”

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