President Barack Obama last month came out in support of same sex marriage, a move that was lauded by LGBT advocates across the country.
But that doesn't change anything for Philadelphia man Mike Iezzi, who is soon retiring and was recently denied Social Security benefits for his same sex partner of 35 years. "I don't care about whether you call it a 'bond' or a 'union,' I want equal rights," he said yesterday afternoon at Philly Pride's 23rd annual PrideDay parade. "I think we're coming close, but we need people to really act up so we can get them faster."
"We're the only class that is not protected," Allentown resident Rick Stahley agreed. "You can legally not sell us a house. We can't make medical decisions for our loved ones. We just want what everyone else has, nothing more and nothing less."
The Philadelphia Gay Man's Chorus performed a rousing a capella rendition of "It's Raining Men" at Sunday's event.
Although PrideDay has evolved from its humble beginnings as an impromptu march in the late 1980s to a celebration that, according to organizers, draws over 25,000 participants each year, the state law has not. At least when it comes to equal marriage protections.
In fact, Harrisburg's latest legislative development was actually an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution proposed last year by State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) that would further restrict the definition of marriage, potentially terminating the right of any local government to offer civil union or partnership benefits to employees.
A House committee delayed voting on the bill in March, but it drew 36 co-sponsors, representing what many political watchdog groups said was a significant step backward for the state's equality movement.
The environment in Philadelphia is considerably friendlier. Following legislation introduced by this year's PrideDay Grand Marshal Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, the city is now one of six municipalities in the state that extends some form of domestic partnership benefits to workers.
Fellow PrideDay Grand Marshal Brian Sims recently won the Democratic primaries for the state House seat representing the 182nd District, which encompasses a large chunk of Philadelphia. He faces no Republican opposition, making it all but certain that he will become the state's first openly gay legislator.
Parade attendees voiced an overwhelming amount of optimism in light of the recent advances. "It's cool to have a president that supports gay marriage because, if nothing else, it will eventually move our country forward," said Vaughn Lloyd. "Hopefully, it will spread closer to home."
"To me, it's the first step of many," Aaron Rodriguez echoed. "About seven or eight states are in support of same sex marriage now. Before you know it, the whole country is going to be represented."
At the same time, most tempered their enthusiasm with the acknowledgement that there are still numerous roadblocks to overcome, especially in terms of the Republican-controlled state legislature that is currently in power.
"Hopefully [Obama's endorsement of same sex marriage] will have an effect on the state, though the Republican governors in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey are both against it and have both been outspoken about it," PrideDay participant Stan Gorecki of New Jersey said. "I think it's great Obama came out in support of it, but it has been disappointing to have to wait that much longer."