After months of concern sparked by comments in a Supreme Court decision, Pittsburghers finally celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriages. The Respect Marriage Act was signed by President Joe Biden this week.
With bipartisan support, the bill passed 258-169 in the House on Dec. 8. The Senate approved The Respect Marriage Act the week before with a 62-37 vote that would codify same-sex marriage into law. While the law does not require all states to legalize same-sex marriage, it requires that all states recognize same-sex and interracial marriages performed in any other state.
“I think it’s long past time that action was taken to protect the rights of same-sex couples to marry,” says Maria Montaño, press secretary for Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. “This is just another step forward in the long march forward for equality for LGBTQIA+ citizens in Pittsburgh and across the country.”
Jeff Miller, vice president of the PGH Equality Center, says the legislation signals to the Pittsburgh LGBTQ+ community that they are seen.
“As a gay man who has been legally married to my husband for eight years, I am pleased that the Respect Marriage Act was passed,” says Miller.
The PGH Equality Center works to provide education and social justice for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies in Western Pennsylvania.
The Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage in 2015 in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriage. However, marriage rights advocates are concerned that the newly conservative court will reverse the decision after Justice Clarence Thomas said that the decision rests on the same legal principles that underscored Roe v. Wade, which was overturned this summer.
To help ensure the safety of the LGBTQIA+ community in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf is supporting a regulatory change to formalize discrimination protections. The Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved the protections on Dec. 8 with a 3-2 vote.
“I have been clear — hate has no place in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “This includes protecting the rights of individuals facing discrimination by a school, landlord or employer based on who they love or their gender identity. Today’s approval by the commonwealth’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission is another important step to ensure all Pennsylvanians can live with dignity and freedom.”
Pennsylvania is one of only 27 states without an explicit law banning such discrimination.
Montaño notes that Pittsburgh already has several nondiscrimination ordinances for housing and employment for the LGBTQIA+ community.
“The mayor has long been an advocate for the rights of the community,” says Montaño. “I think it’s fantastic that this marriage act was passed. It’s a historic piece of legislation protecting more people’s rights. And that’s something that we’re we’re always going to be in support of when it comes to protecting the rights of our LGBTQIA+ community here in Pittsburgh.
“And I’m proud to to to be the first trans woman to ever serve in the role of press secretary. And it’s fantastic to see this historic legislation happen while I’m here, and it’s a historical time in our city.”