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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett Comes Out in Support of LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett today came out in support of an LGBT non-discrimination bill pending in the state, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

CorbettCorbett, who has previously staked out conservative positions on social issues, told The Inquirer that he was "coming out in support" of the bill after learning that federal law does not cover discrimination in the state.

"I've had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against," said Corbett, who served for eight years as the state's attorney general. "The federal government has antidiscrimination laws. I believed they covered it."

Corbett's support of legislation that has languished in the General Assembly for a decade is viewed by many advocates as a major step forward on a civil rights issue.

"This is remarkably big news," said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, a statewide gay rights advocacy group. "His leadership will move the issue forward in a way that is long overdue."

As you may recall, in October Corbett made headlines when he compared gay marriage to incest.

School Fires Gay Teacher After He Applies For Marriage License

An openly gay teacher who was on staff at the Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Pennsylvania for 12 years was suddenly fired from his job yesterday - the same day he and his long-time partner applied for a same-sex marriage license.

WPVI reports:

GriffinMichael Griffin says he emailed the principal of Holy Ghost Prep earlier in the week saying he may be late Friday, that he was applying for a marriage license. After an in-service day he says he was called into the office of School President Father James McCloskey, along with Principal Jeffrey Danilak. Griffin explains, "He said, 'It's not really a secret here that you're gay.' I said, 'Correct.' He said, 'I assume this is a same sex marriage.' 'Yes.' He said if I go through with it, he had no choice but to terminate my position."

In tears, he left. His over a decade-long tenure at Holy Ghost was over. "I really didn't think that it would happen. At our school we talk about it's a community  our motto is 'One heart, one mind.'"

His partner, Vincent Giannetto, tells Action News, "We applied this morning and on the same day he's fired from his job. So it kind of flipped things upside down for us."

Holy Ghost is an all boys Catholic high school located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

Griffin has started to receive support from all across the country. He took to his Facebook account to show his appreciation:

“Thank you to everyone for all of your messages of love and support since yesterday. It is so overwhelming and my heart aches over everything that has happened. Holy Ghost helped form me to be the person that I am today. Even though I am no longer employed there, I wanted to share their mission and philosophy, because I feel like I have tried to make it my life's philosophy as best I can, even now. I am trying to move forward with a peaceful heart and wish nothing but the best to my colleagues and students who mean the world to me.”

PA County Clerk Stopped from Issuing Marriage Licenses to Gays Appeals Case to State's Highest Court

D. Bruce Hanes, the Montgomery County Clerk who issued marriage licenses to dozens of same-sex couples before being ordered to stop, has appealed his case to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the AP reports:

HanesThe state Health Department took Hanes to court for violating the law after he began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in July. In September, Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ordered him to stop signing the licenses. By then, Hanes had signed 174 licenses.

Hanes says the court order forced him to violate his oath by complying with a law he regards as unconstitutional. He cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that the federal government could not deny benefits to married same-sex couples who live in states that allow same-sex marriage, as well as state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s subsequent refusal to defend the law against a federal court challenge because she considers it unconstitutional.

Hanes also contends the Health Department lacked legal standing to take him to court.

Challenge to Pennsylvania's Gay Marriage Ban to Go to Trial in June

A lawsuit filed last July challenging Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage will go to trial in June, the AP reports:

WhitewoodU.S. District Judge John E. Jones III told lawyers he would allow two weeks for the trial. Jones said he would set a specific date and a timetable for pretrial discovery and depositions soon. He rejected as unnecessary a defense request to delay the trial until August.

“I’m an optimist by nature,” the judge told lawyers for both sides at the conclusion of an hourlong meeting.

The federal lawsuit is the first of at least six state and federal court suits challenging aspects of the 17-year-old Pennsylvania law. Civil rights lawyers filed it in July on behalf of plaintiffs who include a widow, 11 couples and one couple’s two teenage daughters.

(image post-gazette)

Pennsylvania Judge Refuses To Block Challenge To Gay Marriage Ban

Pennsylvania Courthouse

Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast that blocks gay marriage thanks to a 17-year-old law that bans the recognition of marriage between same-sex couples.

JonesThe law soon may be no more as a federal court challenge of the law has been allowed to proceed after U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III refused the motions brought up to block the challenge and dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed in July by the ACLU on behalf on 10 couples and a widow. It's just one of several legal challenges to the state's gay marriage ban.

In his 10-page decision, Jones wrote, "The jurisprudence of equal protection and substantive due process has undergone what can only be characterized as a sea change since 1972," rebutting the defendent's assertions that his court lacks the power to hear the case.

Jones scheduled a conference for November 22 and recommended the lawyers for the case come "fully prepared" to discuss a trial start date. 

Pennsylvania Pastor Faces Church Trial for Officiating Gay Son's Marriage

20131110__422684~p1_300Over the weekend, Rev. Frank Schaefer joined with his supporters at Coleman Chapel in Lebanon, Pennsylvania for a candlelight vigil.  No one had died: the vigil was for Schaefer himself, who is facing a church trial for officiating his gay son's wedding in Massachusetts in 2007.  The Lebanon Daily News reports:

Schaefer is pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

"We know of a lot of churches that are doing it," said Schaefer, "but we're hoping that a lot of churches that we don't know of are doing it."

Schaeffer said the prayer vigil were not just for him but for the gay community.

"People are called upon to pray for me as I prepare for trial, for my family, but also for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community at large, because this is for a cause. This is not just for an individual."

Schaefer could lose his ministry if he is convicted of violating church rules.  The United Methodist Church allows its members to be gay, but does not recognize marriage equality or allow LGBT people to join the clergy.

According to the Daily News, a group of over 30 United Methodist pastors in Pennsylvnia who support Schaefer say they will officiate a joint same-sex wedding.

Schaefer hopes that his church will reconsider its position on homosexuality, and credits his son with changing his own views:

"Everything changed for me when I learned that my oldest son was gay," he said. "I think we need to look at this issue again. This is not just an issue of theology. This is an issue of life and death for our young people."

Schaefer said that as a teenager, his son considered suicide because of his struggle with his sexual identity.

"We, as parents and as Christians, rallied around him and affirmed him, and it brought him through some very rough times," he said.

Schaefer's trial will begin on November 18th.

(photo: Earl Brightbill & Lebanon Daily News)


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