A group that calls itself a "multi-issue progressive advocacy organization" said it will present a petition to State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, next week asking him to apologize for comments he made on a radio station about lesbians and gays.
Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, said his group has more than 4,000 signatures on the petition objecting to Eichelberger's statements during a talk show on WHYY-FM, Philadelphia.
Morrill said Thursday that his group is attempting to obtain 5,000 signatures on the petition before presenting it to the senator.
The comments were made late last week during a debate between Eichelberger, who supports an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and Sen. Daylin Leach, D-King of Prussia, who has introduced a bill expanding the definition of marriage.
Eichelberger said 13 members of the Senate have signed on as sponsors of his bill.
He said members of Keystone Progress have taken what he said out of context. He said Thursday afternoon he has no intention of taking back or apologizing for anything he stated during the discussion with Leach about heterosexual marriage, bigamy, polygamy, other different forms of marriage and procreation.
Morrill said the statement that upset him the most was when Eichelberger said of gay and lesbian couples: "We're allowing them to exist."
Morrill said this statement infers a type of "totalitarian" attitude in that Eichelberger believes he has the power to determine who exists and who doesn't.
Eichelberger said Morrill and his group are purposefully misinterpreting his comment.
The discussion on the radio show when the comment was made concerned whether the policy toward same-sex couples was one of punishment, "to somehow prove that they've done something wrong."
"They're not being punished," Eichelberger responded. "We're allowing them [same-sex couples] to exist, and do what every American can do. We're just not rewarding them with a special designation."
He pointed out that polygamy, for instance, is against the law. Same-sex couples living together is not, he said, as a way of expanding on his explanation.
He also said same-sex relations are "dysfunctional," another characterization objected to by Morrill.
A same-sex union is devoid of procreation, which "by their very nature" is dysfunctional, Eichelberger argued.
Eichelberger said Morrill represents a group based in Colorado, but Morrill said his organization is based in West Reading and includes many Pennsylvanians.
During the interview, Eichelberger expressed concern that including same-sex couples in the definition of marriage would open the door to polygamy, relationships with increasingly younger children and other forms of marriage.