Wednesday’s Council meeting was interesting to say the least. In the Public Comment portion of the meeting, Lansdale resident, Richard Strahm, approached the podium and explained how he and his partner, Ken Robinson, were issued a same sex marriage license by Montgomery County and were married last week. He went on to state that this was a large step for equality and recognition for same sex partners.
What Mr. Strahm continued to elaborate on was how I, the mayor of Lansdale, declined to perform their ceremony. He criticized my rejection to perform his wedding ceremony as cowardice. Here is a little background on the situation.
Richard sent me an email asking me to perform a wedding ceremony for him and his partner, Ken. I responded that I was touched by their proposal (we are neighbors), and that I would like to perform their ceremony, but according to the law of the State of Pennsylvania, which I took an oath to uphold, same sex marriage is still illegal. While I may not agree with this law, it is still the law in the State of Pennsylvania. Therefore, I politely declined until the law is overturned at which point, I would perform their wedding. And if they couldn’t wait, I suggested they find someone else to perform their ceremony, and I wished them the best.
Needless to say, same sex marriage is a divisive issue. There are compelling arguments at the moment here in Pennsylvania to disregard the law and exercise civil disobedience. There are also compelling arguments for following due process and appropriate channels for changing the law. Much has been written on both sides convincingly which we have seen in recent editorials in the Philadelphia Daily News, Phillyburbs.com, the Pittsburgh Herald Tribune, the Huffington Post, the list goes on and on. And of course, there are the online comments to these editorials that are also a barometer of public opinion of same sex marriage. After reading many of these editorials and comments, it is clearly an understatement to say that same sex marriage is a divisive issue.
If I had performed Richard and Ken’s wedding ceremony, there certainly would have been an outcry from some that I had broken the law and disregarded the oath that I had taken to uphold the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania. And they would have been correct. And as I did not perform the wedding ceremony for Richard and Ken, I have been accused of being a “coward” for not practicing civil disobedience in support of same sex marriage.
Here’s where all this gets political. Richard Strahm and Ken Robinison– both Democrats– could have selected any number of people to perform their wedding ceremony. They didn’t need me to perform their ceremony, but they deliberately chose me, an elected, Republican mayor (whom, by the way, they campaigned against in the recent primary election). And when I politely declined, they became indignant and rebuked me in an email. I responded again and suggested they find someone else, which they did, and now they are happily married. I certainly did not stand in their way, and they got what they wanted. Yet, Mr. Strahm still wasn’t satisfied. In a political act of retribution to assign prejudice and discrimination to me, Mr. Strahm came to a Council meeting and publicly berated me for not performing a wedding ceremony that I had no obligation to perform.
Richard and Ken and my wife and I are neighbors, and we have socialized on many occasions together. For Richard to call me a coward, prejudiced and discriminatory for not performing his wedding ceremony is wrong. I wish him and Ken much happiness in the future.