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June 12, 2006

Association Issues Letters Condemning Marriage Amendment to State Constitution

PHILADELPHIA – Letters from Alan M. Feldman, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, calling for the Pennsylvania State Senate to oppose Pennsylvania House Bill 2381 were hand delivered to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. The bill proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which would define marriage as between one man and one woman, and would prohibit the state or its subdivisions from creating or recognizing any legal status equivalent to marriage.

Feldman’s letter and a resolution unanimously adopted earlier this year by the Association’s Board of Governors both cite numerous concerns regarding the amendment. “The unintended and negative consequences of this amendment are vast and seemingly endless,” Feldman’s letter states.

The Pennsylvania State House voted 136-61 to pass House Bill 2381 on June 6. To be enacted, the amendment must pass both chambers of the legislature in two consecutive sessions and then be approved by the voters of the Pennsylvania in a referendum.

 The Committee for the Legal Rights of Unmarried Cohabitants of the Association’s Family Law Section presented the resolution to the Board and noted the amendment could have ramifications well beyond limiting same-sex marriages. Elimination of domestic partnership benefits currently guaranteed by many local laws, including crucial health benefits to children and pension benefits for senior citizens, was cited as a possible side effect of the amendment. Inheritance and housing rights could also be disrupted together with second-party adoptions and protection from abuse orders.  Common law marriages recognized prior to a law change in January 2005 would be impacted by the amendment.

Among other concerns, the Association’s resolution states that the proposed amendment “could prohibit courts from enforcing private contracts between unmarried domestic partners” and could “invalidate local zoning laws which permit non-traditional families to reside in the same household.” 

 A copy of the letter translated into Spanish may be found here
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