Health - July 12, 2013

Colorful reactions from Pennsylvanian politicians on marriage equality lawsuit

On Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union and a Philadelphia law firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of ten gay couples, two minor children, and a widow, who want to see Pennsylvania recognize gay marriage. The lawsuit seeks to overturn the Commonwealth's 1996 Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Politicians and advocacy groups from across the state have had a variety of reactions to this. The most remarkable stance being that of Attorney General Kathleen Kane; Kane declined to defend the statute in court. Kane was quoted as saying, “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's version of DOMA. I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional.” Critics of Kane believe her decision dishonors her responsibility as Attorney General and politicizes the highest law enforcement office in Pennsylvania. The defense position will be delegated to the Office of the General Counsel, which has the task to “defend the commonwealth or any executive agency when... the attorney general refuses or fails to initiate appropriate proceedings.”

Governor Corbett, who is openly opposed to gay marriage, has assigned Judge John E. Jones III to oversee the proceedings. Judge Jones III, appointed by the Bush Administration, is known for being a fair-minded jurist who takes all testimonies into account outside of political sentiments.

While advocacy groups such as The Pennsylvania Family Institute—a conservative, anti-gay-marriage group, and Equality Pennsylvania—a pro-gay-marriage group, feel this lawsuit is a good avenue to further their organization's agenda, several politicians see a better alternative. Representative Mark Cohen, a Democrat from Philadelphia, believes a better alternative towards marriage equality would be through an act of the Legislature. He's proposed legislation that would apply all state laws pertaining to marriage to civil unions and would recognize same-sex marriages from out of state. On the other hand, Representative Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican from Butler County, believes the state constitution should be amended to define marriage as between one man and one woman and that this will support law makers in passing statutes that reflect this view. Both politicians base their position on poll percentages. Cohen and the ACLU have sited a state poll asserting that 74% of Pennsylvanians support civil unions, 24% oppose it, and 68% of Pennsylvanian Republicans support gay marriage or same-sex civil unions. Metcalfe is not fazed by these numbers, and instead points to the opinions of his constituents as the basis of his political actions.  


Republican Shuster Targeted by Far-Right Ads in PA

Congressman Bill Shuster, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman is taking some heat.  PACs such as the Madison Project are accusing Congressman Shuster of being a “career politician.” The PAC sponsored radio ads that attacked Shuster’s vote to boost the debt limit and stated the following: “Since Shuster took office, the national debt has tripled under his watch. With Bill Shuster voting to raise the debt ceiling not once, or twice, but a staggering eight times. Yes, you heard that correctly. That’s eight times Bill Shuster voted to raise the debt ceiling.” The Madison Projects policy director, Daniel Horowitz, has taken the lead in the anti-Shuster campaign and recently spoke at a RedState conference with Texas governor and presidential hopeful, Rick Perry. Art Halvorson, a Coast Guard retiree, is being backed by the group to overtake Rep. Shuster’s seat.

Overtaking Shuster’s seat won’t be an easy task.  Shuster already has a head start going into the primary.  According to his campaign office he’s raised nearly $650,000 in the past quarter; total fundraising efforts have netted Shuster more than $916,000, a full ten months before the May primary. In addition, as the incumbent Shuster already has name recognition and support from the GOP leadership. In response, The Madison Project and Halvorson claim that the money race is of no significance and said: “We’re not going to compete on who raises the most money. That’s not the important thing here.”  The group has expressed the possibility of their campaign attacking Shuster’s policy in regards to his openness to raise the gas tax to pay for infrastructure. And most importantly they plan to portray Halvorson as a “leader” in contrast to Shuster’s “politician” label. Holvorson expressed the group’s view on these titles, explaining that “politics has a connotation, and I prefer to not be called a politician.” The primary is ten months away, but the effort is already in motion to unseat the six-term incumbent.