September 29, 2022
Congressman Brendan Boyle
Congressman Matt Cartwright
Congresswoman Madeleine Dean
Congressman Mike Doyle
Congressman Dwight Evans
Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick
Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan
Congressman Conor Lamb
Congressman Scott Perry
Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon
Congresswoman Susan Wild
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representatives Boyle, Cartwright, Dean, Doyle, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Houlahan, Lamb, Perry, Scanlon and Wild:
As a leader of the movement to end sexual violence, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape works to end all forms of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, ability, and sexual orientation. We cannot truly eliminate sexual violence until these forms of abusive oppression are likewise eradicated.
As such, we applaud all of you for your recent support of the federal Respect for Marriage Act, which would protect marriage equality in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people identifying as lesbian, gay, and bisexual are more likely to experience sexual or intimate partner violence than their heterosexual counterparts. Continued prejudice and marginalization of the LGBTQ+ community makes these individuals more vulnerable to abuse; in addition, these survivors may face barriers to receiving help due to social stigmas surrounding their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Marriage equality has been a significant step toward equity, respect, and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. Government recognition of gay marriage as legal and valid has been imperative to social progress. Ending sexual violence among LGBTQ+ victims depends upon this acceptance and appreciation of LGBTQ+ people in all communities.
Unfortunately, recent events have threatened marriage equality across the United States. National marriage equality was established through the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. The decision for this case upheld marriage equality at the federal level, effectively nullifying all laws that prohibited gay marriage. While some of these laws continue to exist, they can no longer be enforced. One of the most influential of these laws at the federal level is the Defense of Marriage Act. Passed in 1996, this federal policy provided that no state or territory would be required to recognize gay marriage, effectively barring federal legislation that promoted marriage equality.
Now, the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges may be under threat. If this holding is overturned, all statutes prohibiting gay marriage at the local, state, and federal level become law once again. It’s important that we do all we can to prevent such discrimination from returning to our courts, our capitols, and our communities.
The Respect for Marriage Act works to protect gay marriage by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, removing one enormous obstacle to marriage equality should the Obergefell v. Hodges decision be overturned. We applaud this bill as an important step to defending marriage equality, and express our gratitude to all representatives of the Commonwealth who supported this important measure.
In the days, weeks, and years to come, more action will be necessary, not only to protect marriage equality, but to continue to root out and eradicate all forms of hatred and oppression against LGBTQ+ people, in all of our communities. Each and every one of us must do our part.
We encourage Pennsylvania’s federal senators to support the Respect for Marriage Act, so that it may become law, and for all of our federal elected officials to vote in favor of future measures to protect LGBTQ+ people, and in opposition to policies that would discriminate against them. We urge our state and local policymakers to center LGBTQ+ people and their stories in legislation. We ask everyone, everywhere to advocate in your life for the protection of the rights of LGBTQ+ people, and for respect, inclusion, and equity for all of our fellow citizens.
Chief Executive Officer
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape