Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania denied another lawmaker’s free speech last week by preventing him from talking about the Supreme Court’s groundbreaking DOMA decision.
Openly gay Pennsylvania Representative Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) wanted to recognize the significance of the moment by making a comment on the House floor, but he was blocked from doing so by Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalfe and other religious conservative lawmakers who used a peculiarity in the chamber rules that requires unanimous consent for impromptu remarks.
Why do it? Metcalfe is quoted as saying that Sims’ comments would have been “open rebellion against God’s law.”
“For me to allow him to say things that I believe are open rebellion against God are for me to participate in his open rebellion. There’s no free speech on the floor.”
Metcalfe is a (far) right of center legislator who has sponsored many extreme pieces of legislation, including a marriage amendment to the state’s constitution as well as backing a campaign to overturn the 14th Amendment’s citizenship provisions so as to “bring an end to the illegal alien invasion.”
Two other Democratic lawmakers tried to speak in Sims’ favor. They were also reportedly blocked from doing so.
Though technically not beyond the bounds of their power, it is clear that the religious conservative lawmakers involved in trying to gag Sims were doing so simply because Sims was about to make a comment on a big win for marriage equality.
Sims, who entered office in January, is the first openly gay lawmaker elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.
He is now seeking to have Metcalfe formally reprimanded for what appears a direct abuse of power, with Trib Live reporting that Sims may go through the Ethics Committee or seek a House resolution on the matter.
The incident occurred only a few days after Sims announced he is preparing to bring forth a marriage equality bill, telling the press that, “Marriage equality has steadily grown, now standing at majority support in recent Pennsylvania polls. I believe that more and more legislators from both parties will decide to be on the right side of history.”
Analysts predict that the bill likely won’t pass this year but that this sets the tone for future action.
Sims isn’t the only one who believes that the Supreme Court’s striking down DOMA Section 3 is a significant moment in terms of state rights.
New Jersey lawmakers are also planning on reintroducing legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, this even though Governor Chris Christie has once again vowed to veto the bill should it reach his desk.
Arkansas advocates have also filed a motion to bring about a 2014 ballot measure to legalize marriage equality in the state. Though the outlook is not overly optimistic, organizer Judd Mann is quoted as saying, ”It will be a hard battle and it will be a good and worthy battle.”
Meanwhile the US Congress looks set to see a full DOMA repeal introduced in the House and the Senate in the form of the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA).
The RMA would repeal DOMA in its entirety including the still-in-force Section 2 that prevents states from having to recognize the same-sex marriages conducted in other states.
The bill has garnered renewed Democratic support with Senator Kristin Gillibrand telling the Guardian, “That is a common core value we all share. That is who we are. And this is simply the right thing to do. I am confident we will continue on the path to full equality that America’s founders dreamed of, and what loving, committed couples across America deserve.”
And the fallout continues.
Over the weekend one binational married same-sex couple became the first to have their application for a marriage based green card accepted.
Also a federal judge in Michigan, where another marriage equality effort is being touted, last week cited the Defense of Marriage Act ruling to halt a state law that bans same-sex partner benefits.
Unfortunately, we also cannot overlook that US Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) is busy readying a federal marriage amendment to write into the US Constitution a same-sex marriage ban.
This seems a futile effort however that has virtually zero chance of gaining traction given that even most of Huelskamp’s Republican colleagues have shied away from the notion with only 28 Republicans supporting the measure so far, and every Democratic lawmaker opposed.
Sadly however, and as we saw with the NDAA gay marriage on military bases debacle, this is unlikely to deter Huelskamp from wasting yet more time on the issue.
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