(CNSNews.com) - Pennsylvania's Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved a ban on same-sex marriage, but conservatives say they weakened the bill by changing the language to allow civil unions between homosexuals.
"If the Senate is not willing to deal with the issue of marriage in its entirety - same-sex marriage and civil unions - then they send the clear message to their constituents that they are not willing to take the tough stand necessary to protect one man one woman marriage," said American Family Association of Pennsylvania President Diane Gramley.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, House Bill 2381, which passed the state House last week, now reads the same as the 1996 Pennsylvania Defense of Marriage Act and states "a marriage is only between one man and one woman."
"The issue must be dealt with now ... all the doors must be closed to same-sex marriage and civil unions is just marriage by another name. Civil unions and traditional marriages are so similar that the only significant difference is that civil unions do not receive federal benefits. An amendment that does not deal with both is not worth the paper it is written on," said Gramley in a statement.
State Sen. Jane Earll (R-Erie) deleted the portion of House Bill 2381 which bans civil unions, and the amendment passed the committee in a 9 to 5 vote, the Post-Gazette reported.
AFA of PA noted that it delivered over 800 letters from Earll's constituents in support of the Marriage Protection Amendment. Now Earll will have to face those constituents, the group said.
"Pennsylvanians understand the issue better than their Senators give them credit," said Gramley. "They understand that civil unions must be addressed or traditional marriage will be weakened because homosexual activists will continue pushing for same-sex marriage
"Even homosexual activists recognize civil unions will be used as a stepping stone to legalize same-sex marriage," Gramley added.
In April 2005, Connecticut approved a civil union bill that allows same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in the state. As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Anne Stanback, president of an advocacy group called Love Makes a Family, called the bill a "down payment on the promise of full protection and equality and marriage."
The state Senate and House must agree on the same wording, but conservatives are concerned that there won't be enough time before the Legislature leaves June 30.
Supporters of the bill want both chambers to agree on the wording by early July to allow time for a constitutional notice on the proposed amendment to be placed in newspapers by early August.
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