Marriage (and Other LGBT) Rights in Pennsylvania

In my childhood, my mother and I vacationed in Pennsylvania frequently. My mother didn’t have much love for the modern world. She hated any musical composition that included the snare drum. She bemoaned tattoos on women: “That’s not ladylike.” And every year over Columbus Day weekend, we went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Amish Country.

Now, I was a city kid, through and through. My idea of a good vacation included lots and lots of neon and zero mincemeat pie. We would visit covered bridges and Amish demonstration farms. Gift shops that sold butter churns and preserves. We would walk–yes walk–behind horse-and-buggy travelers in suspenders, straw hats, and button-down pastel shirts. I hated it. The one bright spot of the trip was going to Dutch Wonderland, an amusement park with the occasional nod to the surrounding culture.

Oh, and I liked hex signs. So much that the tattoo I got to memorialize my mother has the imagery of the double distelfink. Let’s hope in the afterlife or whatever, my mother has developed an appreciation for tattoos and a healthy sense of irony.

So it’s with this appreciation for the varied cultures of Pennsylvania that I report on their laws concerning LGBT people.


  • There is no recognition of same-sex relationships in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law states: “It is hereby declared to be the strong and longstanding public policy of this commonwealth that marriage shall be between one man and one woman. A marriage between person of the same sex which was entered into in another state or foreign jurisdiction, even if valid where entered into, shall be void in this commonwealth.”
  • After five other people are consulted, a same-sex partner may make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner. The law recognizes a health care power of attorney–it must identify the person appointing the health care agent and declare that the agent has the power to make medical decisions on the person’s behalf.
  • Single LGBT people in Pennsylvania may adopt. At least one case sets precedent for joint adoption, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has ruled that same-sex couples may adopt each other’s children.
  • A person’s sex may be amended on his or her birth certificate.
  • Hate crimes are enforced by federal law as of Wednesday, but only in the case that the state cannot or will not prosecute the crime as a hate crime. In the case of Pennsylvania, a 2002 amendment would have protected both sexual orientation and gender identity, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck those amendments down in 2007. So to the Feds it is, Penn.
  • In Pennsylvania only state employees are protected against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Pennsylvania has no safe schools laws. [via HRC]

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