Is It April Fool’s Day Already?

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I had to read this story twice today before I realized that it was still only March 3rd. Upon the second reading, I realized that it had to be a real story, because you simply can’t make stuff like this up.  

A same-sex commitment ceremony is planned for March 29 on the campus of Penn State University to coincide with the start of Pride Week there. The Mayor of State College, which is the town where the main Penn State campus is located, is set to preside at the ceremony.

The pastor of a Baptist church in Altoona, PA strongly objects to this event and has started circulating a petition that opposes the ceremony. The pastor is seeking signatories from across the state. The pastor hopes to present the petition to the Mayor of State College:to urge him not to preside at the ceremony:and to Penn State:to urge it to refuse to open its campus to the half-dozen couples who are expected to participate in the ceremony as well as those who plan to attend to witness the ceremony.

According to the petition, the pastor and his co-signatories object to the event because:

It is our belief that such a ceremony will make a public statement that same-sex unions of any sort are morally, socially, ethically, and spiritually correct, and will ‘open the door’ for further similar events across the state and the nation. We also believe that any form of same-sex unions violate the teaching of scripture, will weaken the basic family unit, will divide society and will lead to greater moral and spiritual demise of our culture.

So, let me get this right (straight?), the pastor and his co-signatories are so threatened by lesbians and gay men that they must seek to ban any and all forms of same-sex unions. It is not enough that the State of Pennsylvania will not legally recognize the unions formed or reaffirmed at this commitment ceremony. After all, there is already a state law on the books prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. sec. 1704), and the state legislature is currently considering an amendment to the state constitution that would make doubly sure that such marriages (as well as civil unions, domestic partnerships, and other”functional equivalents of marriage”) are not legally recognized in Pennsylvania.  

No, the pastor and his co-signatories must go a step further. For whatever reason, they feel compelled to do their best to keep a small group of couples from affirming their relationships in public on the campus of a state-related university in the presence of a local official who has absolutely no power to confer any legal sanction on their relationships. (It is worth noting here that Penn State describes itself as an”institution[] that [is] not state-owned and -operated but that ha[s] the character of [a] public universit[y] and receive[s] substantial state appropriations”; indeed, the connection between the State of Pennsylvania and Penn State has been held sufficient to support a finding of state action for purposes of federal constitutional analysis, see, e.g., Brush v. Pennsylvania State Univ., 489 Pa. 243 (1980).)

Amazingly, the pastor said in the news story that he did not wish to be painted as someone who hates lesbians and gay men: “‘We don’t hate homosexuals and don’t want to be portrayed as that,’ he said. ‘I have a number of friends who are homosexuals, and I love them in the sense of (that) relationship.’ “With friends like that, who needs enemies?  

Like I said, you just can’t make this stuff up!

-Anthony C. Infanti

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