Marriage Equality Bill Passes PA House for First Time in State History

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Marriage Equality Bill Passes PA House for First Time in State History
HB 2269 Passed the PA House in a 133-68 Vote

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The PA House passed a bill anchoring marriage equality within a state statute in a historic 133-68 vote Tuesday afternoon. This vote on HB 2269 is the first time marriage equality legislation has been moved through a chamber of the General Assembly. The bill received support from all House Democrats except for Rep. Frank Burns (D-Cambria), joined by 32 House Republicans — about one-third of House Republicans present in the chamber for the vote. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a 17-8 vote on June 12, 2024.

In response to the vote, Preston Heldibridle, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, said “The PA House has made history in recognizing that marriage equality must be codified in our state law. LGBTQ Pennsylvanians should be able to marry their spouse without having to worry about the whims of political tensions and any future decisions of the United States Supreme Court. This vote affirms that updating the language in our state statute has broad bipartisan support, and embraces the reality that marriage equality is widely backed by Pennsylvanians. Marriage should be about celebrating a loving union between two adults. Marriage equality is simply the right public policy for Pennsylvania.”

On the House floor, Representatives Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny) and Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) spoke in favor of the legislation, while Representatives Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton) and Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) spoke against the bill.

Despite marriage equality being the law of the land through a United States District Court decision in Whitewood in 2014, and then additionally across the nation with the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell in 2015, Pennsylvania still has a statute on the books (which is invalid) that prohibits same-sex marriages from being recognized by the state government. Pennsylvania’s General Assembly enacted § 1704 of Title 23: Domestic Relations in 1996 which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. There were unsuccessful attempts to pass bills to put a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality in PA to the voters in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

The first bill on same-sex relationship recognition was introduced by former Representative Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) in 2010 to provide for civil unions. Representative Cohen introduced the bill again in 2011, in tandem with the first full marriage equality bills introduced by Representative Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) in the state House and Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) in the state Senate in 2011. Following the United States Supreme Court decision in Windsor, which struck down the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) and allowed for the US government to recognize same-sex unions in 2013, Representative Cohen introduced a marriage equality bill in 2013 and then again in 2015. Senator Leach reintroduced marriage equality legislation in the state Senate in 2013. No marriage equality bills were introduced in the General Assembly until 2019 and 2021 with a bill filed in both of those sessions by Representatives Kenyatta and Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia). Senator Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) introduced marriage equality bills in the state Senate in 2021 and 2023, where it currently sits in the Senate Judiciary Committee. HB 2269 was introduced in 2023 by prime sponsors Representatives Kenyatta, Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny), Burgos, and Mayes.

In 2022, the Respect for Marriage Act was enacted into law by Congress to ensure marriage equality by statute following Obergefell. In the US House the legislation passed in a final 258 – 169 vote, with 10 of Pennsylvania’s 18 US House members voting in favor of the final bill — including Representatives Boyle, Cartwright, Dean, Doyle, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Houlahan, Lamb, Scanlon, and Wild. In July 2022, during the first House consideration of the legislation, before the Senate amendments, Representatives Meuser and Perry also voted for the bill. Senator Bob Casey voted in favor of the legislation on final passage, while Senator Pat Toomey was recorded as Not Voting.

This historic bill passage in the PA House is only among a handful of LGBTQ rights bills to ever receive a floor vote.

HB 2269 now heads to the state Senate.