Area gays embrace federal court’s ruling

Chad Lamb and Matthew Haslett of Johnstown got married last year – in Maryland, because it was illegal in Pennsylvania for gay couples.

It’s illegal no more, with a U.S. District Court decision Tuesday that found the state’s law that limited marriage to the union of a man and a woman to be unconstitutional.

Because Judge John B. Jones III’s ruling found the law violated due process and equal protection, Lamb and Haslett will add the Pennsylvania wedding they would have had last year – it will be a renewal of vows – to the reception they had already planned.

“I’m overjoyed,” Lamb said.

“Awesome,” said Josh Glossner of State College, who’s been with his partner, Frank, for a year and a half.

“I could see us getting married,” Glossner said.

It’s not likely to happen right away, as Frank wants to wait until all 50 states legalize it, to ensure there won’t be a problem with potential opportunities when they’ve finished school.

Among the advantages to marrying, according to Glossner: no limitation on visiting rights in the hospital, or on adoptions or on tax breaks.

“Some say, ‘Well, it’s just a piece of paper,'” he said. “But sometimes it’s more than that.”

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Paul Hershberger of Flinton. “It finally puts Pennsylvania on track with the rest of the Northeast.”

Marriage is an “integral part” of what the LGBT community has been fighting for in its drive for full equality, Hershberger said.

Hershberger and his partner don’t necessarily want to take legal advantage of the institution, however, because they view marriage as “a patriarchal thing.”

Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church does not approve of Tuesday’s decision.

“Marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown spokesman Tony DeGol, stating the church’s position.

“The family is a fundamental building block of society, and every child has the right to have a mother and a father united in marriage.”

The church’s opposition isn’t discriminatory against individuals, but a “defense of traditional marriage,” he said.

Former Blair County Commissioner Donna Gority, by contrast, was pleased at the decision – sort of.

“I guess I would rather that it were [an approval of] civil unions, because this puts some religious entities in a hard spot,” said Gority, explaining that she believes gay people are born that way and have the right to partner with the people of their choice.

Civil unions would give gay couples governmental and employment rights and benefits while avoiding the religious difficulties, particularly in cases that involve adoptions, Gority said.

Hershberger grew up in Saxton, where he said he endured anti-gay slurs.

“Very stressful,” he said. “A very depressing time.”

It’s better nowadays.

He’s a conservative within the LGBT community, however, because he’s not fully comfortable with gay-pride parades or the stereotypical flamboyance, which can alienate the straight world, to the disadvantage of the movement, he said.

It wasn’t until white people began to embrace the African-American civil rights movement or until white men began to embrace the women’s rights movement that those made their greatest gains, said Hershberger, whose training is in history.

It makes sense to “play the straight card,” to say “we aren’t that dissimilar, we want the same things, have the same goals,” he said.

Clearly, marriage is one of the main, traditional “straight-card” institutions.

Lamb, a teacher, and Haslett, a state trooper, have been together 11 years and have heard their share of slurs.

“We just stay focused on us and being happy,” he said.

“I hope Gov. Corbett

doesn’t attempt to appeal,” he said, adding that it would be politically wiser to refrain, as the governor already has the conservative vote and would only further alienate liberals with an appeal.

“And I hope the rest of the country can share in our happiness,” he said.

Glossner, 22, who came out in 10th grade in his native Bellefonte, and has had “a pretty good journey,” with “no backlash or anything,” thinks the ruling will be a big step for a conservative state.

“Everybody is more open-minded, and coming to terms with the fact that our [LGBT] community is not going to give up because somebody says ‘no’ once,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.