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March 05, 2004

Letter Template: House Bill 345

Calling such proposals "divisive and serving no legal or economic benefits," the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association today urged State Legislators to oppose a series of amendments to House Bill 345 which would forbid taxpayer-funded benefits for domestic partners regardless of sexual orientation, ban common law marriages and prohibit adoptions by same sex couples.  According to Chancellor Gabriel L.I. Bevilacqua, "The Philadelphia Bar Association has an interest in the equality of treatment for all Pennsylvanians, and that is why we oppose these amendments."
Speaking for the State's largest local bar association, Bevilacqua said "the mere fact that a person lives in a non-traditional household should not be the basis for treating him or her differently than a person in a traditional household." He pointed out that the Association has publicly supported legislation that recognizes domestic partnerships for same sex couples and which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of domestic partnerships or marital status.
Bevilacqua also said the amendments "would prohibit businesses, including law firms, from contracting with the Commonwealth if those businesses provide same sex benefits." The Chancellor added that "this uniquely impacts many Philadelphia law firms which do business internationally and as a condition of doing business with larger governmental entities must offer same sex benefits." Bevilacqua called this proposal "bad for business" charging that it "will result in discouraging economic development."
The amendments would also abolish common law marriages in Pennsylvania. "This type of marriage has always been available to people in this Commonwealth who desire to be married or consider themselves married, but who, for one reason or another, are not willing or able to present themselves to the government for ratification of their union," Bevilacqua said. The Chancellor pointed out that this move "would certainly result in the elimination of many claims to benefit" under existing common law marriage.
Finally, Bevilacqua argued that prohibiting adoption by same sex couples "will deny children needed love and family support and increase the burden on child welfare agencies to fill the void." The Chancellor said that regardless of the amendments, "same sex couples will continue to raise children but the children of these family units will be denied the legal stability and economic security of having two legal parents."
Speaking for the 13,000-member Bar Association the Chancellor decried the package of amendments saying that "these amendments are simply ill-advised. They are bad for children, bad for families, bad for business and bad for Pennsylvania. We urge the legislature to reject them."

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