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senators: Same-sex marriage, no; civil unions, OK

Pennsylvania
senators: Same-sex marriage, no; civil unions, OK

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A proposed Pennsylvania constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage has been changed to remove a provision to ban civil unions.

A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania is fine, said a state senate panel on Tuesday. But a provision that would also ban civil unions goes too far.

Before the panel approved the proposal, sending it to the full senate, where if faces an uncertain future, it shortened the reach of the legislation by removing a portion that also would have outlawed civil unions, reports the Associated Press. The vote to change the legislation, which passed the house last week, came after sharp debate between Republican senators on the judiciary committee.

Republican senator Jane Earll of Erie questioned whether a constitutional amendment is even needed since state law already bans same-sex marriage. There is no existing court challenge to the law and no indication that a state judge would strike it down, she said. "Many of us believe we are fighting ghosts," Earll said.

If the multiyear process of approving a constitutional amendment is to continue, the proposal would need approval from not only the full senate but also the house this month. Passing a constitutional amendment requires approval by the house and senate in two successive two-year sessions of the general assembly and then the approval of voters in a statewide referendum. (The Advocate)

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