With challenges to Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act that were brought in front of the Supreme Court two weeks ago, the push for equality has gained some more momentum. Still, same sex couples in New Jersey and Pennsylvania face an uphill battle. However, the challenges brought to Prop 8 and DOMA have increased the potential for policy change in the region.
New Jersey is one of seven states that allow civil unions. Same sex couples in New Jersey enjoy most of the benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples short of legal marriage. Through the arguments challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8, the U.S. Justice Department argued that states offering civil unions to same sex couples cannot deny them the right to legally marry. Governor Christie has denied the constitutionality of same sex marriage in New Jersey, suggesting that it be put on the ballot. But if the Supreme Court declares marriage a constitutional right, the issue would be prohibited from ever coming up for a vote.
In Pennsylvania, same sex couples enjoy no legal protections. Last week however, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced his support for marriage equality and the repeal of DOMA. Casey made a statement to the Philadelphia Gay News in response to what he has heard from LGBT individuals and families in Pennsylvania. The senator said, “If two people of the same sex fall in love and want to marry, why would our government stand in their way? At a time when many Americans lament a lack of commitment in our society between married men and women, why would we want less commitment and fewer strong marriages? If two people of the same sex want to raise children, why would our government prevent them from doing so, especially when so many children have only one parent, or none at all?”
Along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Il), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama, Sen. Casey joins a group of elite politicians who support marriage equality. However, without a favorable Supreme Court ruling marriage equality may lose the ground it’s gained.