Pa. Senate Dems say they’re tired of some Republicans resisting pro-LGBTQ measures

Over the past three sessions, at least a dozen Democratic-sponsored resolutions related to honoring LGBTQ+ people have failed to pass the state House or Senate.

The Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Russ Walker/PA Post)

The Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Russ Walker/PA Post)

Democratic state Senators are trying to pass a resolution that would designate the day after Valentine’s Day as “Love is Love Day,” in recognition of LGBTQ people.

They’ve attempted similar resolutions several times over the last few legislative sessions and say this most recent attempt is hitting a familiar roadblock: some Republicans don’t support the idea.

Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat from Bucks County, said he decided to sponsor the measure after being asked to honor an LGBTQ prom in his district.

In his memo to fellow lawmakers, he wrote that he thinks people who “identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, and other sexual minorities (LGBTQ+) are often excluded from Valentine’s Day mainstream media coverage.”

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Resolutions are different from traditional bills because they don’t typically have a straightforward impact on state law.

“It’s a statement of what we feel, and it’s a statement of our values,” Santarsiero said. “If we can’t even get behind such a statement, we should be ashamed of ourselves.”

He had been hoping to get unanimous consent on the measure. If everyone agrees to it, a resolution can skip committee and floor considerations and pass the Senate quickly. But if even one member doesn’t support it, it has to take the long way through the chamber.

Resolutions pass with unanimous consent pretty frequently — sometimes they’re intended to honor people, or to name days and weeks, or to raise awareness of problems.

But Santarsiero said when he approached Jake Corman, the Republican Senate Leader, about the resolution, Corman told him he’d asked around and there wasn’t enough support in the GOP caucus for “Love is Love Day” to pass unanimously.

A companion measure faced the same fate in the House.

When resolutions can’t pass with unanimous consent, they’re assigned to a committee like any other bill. That’s also not an uncommon outcome — Senate GOP spokeswoman Jenn Kocher noted, it happened recently when Democrats disagreed about honoring basketball player Kobe Bryant.

“The LGBTQ resolution is on par with the Kobe Bryant resolution at this point, that there are objections to it,” she said.

When resolutions related to LGBTQ rights have been introduced in the state legislature in recent sessions, they have invariably been assigned to committees, with similar outcomes.

This session, one other Senate resolution seeking to honor LGBTQ people and four that were introduced in the House have gone unpassed.

In the 2017-2018 session, the same thing happened to the two LGBTQ-related resolutions that were introduced in the Senate and the two introduced in the House. In the 2015-2016 legislative session, the one LGBTQ-related resolution introduced in the House died in committee.

Kocher said after the recent Bryant resolution discord, chamber leaders decided to unofficially change their process for considering resolutions. As of last week, she said, none would be passed on unanimous consent; they would all be sent through the committee process.

Santarsiero said he learned about the new process after he’d introduced his LGBTQ resolution. He said while he understands the change and appreciates Corman checking whether Republican members support the resolution, “it would have been nice to know [about the updated process] ahead of time.”

“This prom is on the 15th of February,” he said, “We wanted to have these resolutions passed in time to be able to present it to the kids.”

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