Montco candidates react to same-sex marriage

By Ted Bordelon

Wire Managing Editor

In the wake of President Obama’s announcement that his views were no longer “evolving on the issue” and that he stood in favor of gay marriage, several pundits noted that, from that moment forward, it might be difficult for Democratic politicians to take a stance against marriage equality.

The Democratic Party subsequently adopted same-sex marriage as part of its platform in 2012. While not all Democratic politicians and candidates have fallen in line with the president, those running for the 13th Congressional District, which encompasses much of Montgomery County and a portion of Northeast Philadelphia, have.

At a rally held on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse last Monday in support of Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes’ decision to issue gay marriage licenses, three of the four candidates appeared and spoke out in favor of marriage equality.

State legislators Sen. Daylin Leach and Rep. Brendan Boyle were on hand, along with health-care reform advocate, Dr. Valerie Arkoosh.

While former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies did not attend the rally, she too has voiced her support for Hanes.

The Midweek Wire spoke with each of the candidates to get their perspective on the topic that is placing Montgomery County in statewide and national headlines.

All four candidates stated that they believe in marriage equality, and all four spoke out in favor of anti-discrimination legislation that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) individuals.

Currently, the state of Pennsylvania does not protect LGBT individuals in the workplace from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast of the United States where you can get fired for being gay,” Boyle noted. “No one should have to be worried about getting fired because of who they love.”

Boyle is a founding member of the LGBT equality caucus in the Pennsylvania legislature, and is the author of a bill that would include sexual orientation and gender identity on the list of protected classes in the state’s hate-crimes laws.

“I would just ask the people who wouldn’t be supportive to take a step back and realize that sexual orientation is innate,” Boyle said. “It’s not a choice and we should treat all people equally in law and in practice regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.”

An advocate for LGBT rights, Leach said that he too would support same-sex marriage equality as well as expanded hate-crime and anti-discrimination legislation “with an enthusiasm I can barely maintain.”

Leach recently made news for officiating the marriages of several same-sex couples who received licenses from Hanes.

While some have criticized Hanes, accusing him of shirking the law for his own beliefs, Leach said that he supported Hanes because Hanes “took an oath to defend the Constitution — not the domestic code of the state.”

He added that he supported LGBT equality “before it was cool,” referring to a bill he introduced in 2009 that would legalize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.

“I had one co-sponsor and people were coming up to me saying are you crazy?” Leach recalled. “Those same people now come to marriage equality rallies.”

He noted that he was broadly speaking about politicians.
Political newcomer Akroosh noted that while she has little record to run on concerning the issue, her feelings stem from her personal experience as a doctor.

“I know how this affects them in an emergency situation,” Akroosh said, referring to the lack of hospital visitation rights same-sex couples have. “It can be really catastrophic for those involved.”

She said that if she was elected, she would vote for the Respect of Marriage Act, a proposed congressional bill that would require the U.S. federal government to recognize the validity of same-sex marriage, repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). She would also support federal hate-crime and anti-discrimination legislation.

“I think that we should be promoting every loving relationship that is between two people out there,” Akroosh said.

In a statement to the Wire, Margolies said that she was in “full agreement” with Hanes’ actions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision concerning DOMA.

“I applaud Bruce for his decision to uphold the constitutional rights of same-sex couples in Montgomery County and wish all of our elected officials had the courage to do what they believe is right,” Margolies said.

She, too would support anti-discrimination and hate-crime legislation. She noted that one of the main tenets of her global nonprofit, Women’s Campaign International, is equality.

“This thinking extends well beyond gender equality — it’s about human equality,” Margolies said.

To those who are staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage?
“On this issue we must agree to disagree.”

Ted Bordelon can be reached