The gay-friendly borough of New Hope, Pa., a picturesque town on the Delaware River that has long attracted artists, antiquers, and tourists, wants Bucks County officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Council members this week passed a resolution supporting same-sex marriages, perhaps the first such resolution in Pennsylvania. "I don't know of any communities who have passed any resolutions similar to this," said Larry Frankel, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
The New Hope statement, passed Tuesday, reflects the opinion of council members and does not carry any legal weight. Council members can neither issue marriage licenses nor perform marriage ceremonies. "If everybody could live in New Hope for a while, they wouldn't see gay marriage as such a hard idea," said Councilman Randy Flager, a heterosexual lawyer who proposed the measure, which had not been on the agenda.
Moments earlier, resident Stephen Stahl had spoken of his desire to marry his partner of 28 years. The measure passed 5-0, with two council members absent.
The quaint borough, with 2,250 residents, has been a mecca for artists and tourists since the 1950s. "New Hope is a wonderful place to live, and one of the reasons it is wonderful is because we don't judge people on their lifestyle and whom they choose to love," Flager said. He supports same-sex marriage on civil rights grounds, he said.
A 1996 Pennsylvania law defines marriage as between one man and one woman and doesn't recognize same-sex marriages even if they took place legally somewhere else. A few lesbian and gay couples have been asking--quietly--for marriage licenses in the Lehigh Valley and other parts of the state and been turned away, perhaps because government officials could face criminal charges under state law if they were to issue such licenses.