Same Sex Marriage in Lansdale

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.

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17 responses to “Same Sex Marriage in Lansdale

  1. I understand your analysis, and it’s tough to find fault with it. However, if I were still in office, I would have done it.

  2. Andy,

    To say that we got married – or any part of that process – for political reason would be funny if it just wasn’t so sad.

    Ken and I have been together for almost eighteen years. And for all that time, we have been denied the long lists of rights that you, and all other married people, take for granted.

    When Montgomery County started to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, I truly felt our time had come. And while you obviously disagree with me, we thought it would be wonderful if we were to get married by the mayor of the town we live in.

    Reading your arguments here, I see no strength of character. You’re for us getting married – but only if someone else did it. You could have easily joined the long, long list of elected Pennsylvania officials who support same-sex marriage (Republican state senators and house members in that list, I might add!), but you didn’t.

    I challenge you, Andy. If you are for equality in Pennsylvania, champion an anti-discrimination law here in Lansdale. I would stand with you and any of our elected officials who did this.

    Richard

    • Richard,

      Again you miss the point. In the Reporter article, it mentions that you were married by your friend, who is a pastor, in your back yard. Why did you not ask this friend who is a pastor first? You also say that this is issue is personal for you and not political. Then why did you choose the most political person in town, the mayor, over your friend who is a pastor to perform your ceremony? Because you wanted to grandstand and make this political– plain and simple. You were the one who came to Council and made this issue public. You and I could have had discussed this further privately– you know I love debate and we have spoken civilly on many occasions in the past. But you didn’t this time. You were the one who made this public declaration in Council chambers that I was a coward for not breaking the law and therefore, discriminatory. How is that not political?

  3. If it wasn’t political why would you come to a public forum and basically call him a coward? All you do is rip Mayor Andy! Why would you want him to marry you?? Wouldn’t the wedding ceremony video have him in most of the video? POLITICAL I am happy you were able to get married. Congrats to both.

  4. I think that saying Andy believes you got married for political reasons would be really funny if it wasn’t so sad. Richard, you obviously didn’t read Andy’s entry here the way it was written, you read it in a way that you wanted it to be said. Andy said, very clearly, that he supports your decision to be married to your same sex partner, and that he COULD NOT (not “would not”, but “could not”) legally perform the ceremony because of the office he holds.
    It was that you intentionally called him out on it and “assigned” prejudice and discrimination to him (his words) after the fact. If you know anything about the law, and if you had any respect for your neighbor who wanted only the best for you, you would have know that he could not legally perform the marriage in his current position, no matter what his views on same sex marriage. To then ask him to do so and then rebuke him for it publicly is most definitely a political move to push forward your own agenda and quite obviously not Andy’s. It appears to me (as it apparently did to Andy) that this was your plan (whether or not it was only you can say, but I would assume you’d deny it, whether it’s the truth or not).
    You say that he “could have easily joined the long, long list of elected Pennsylvania officials who support same-sex marriage”…in fact, he did exactly that with this posting. He actually says that he supports you and your right to wed. Illegally performing a wedding and supporting the idea of the rights to that wedding are two entirely different things. If the Chief of Police supported the idea of every PA citizen’s right to freely gamble without strict licensing said so, and voted as such, then they are in support of that agenda. If the Chief of Police were to open his or her own casino in their basement for their own personal gain, wouldn’t that be illegal? Would you call them a coward in a public forum for NOT doing it? Can you please tell me how many on this “long long list” of yours have performed non-legal/non-recognized marriages in this state so far?
    It is as clear to me as it is to Andy that you were making a political statement at Andy’s expense – not the best way to garner support for ANY idea or ideal with your elected officials.
    I am personally ordained and ready & able to perform same sex marriages in this county. I have not just a few friends who are anxiously awaiting the laws in this state to be changed so I may LEGALLY marry them. When (not if, but when) it happens, I am going to praise that day and the people who made it happen, and begin performing LEGAL same sex marriages for them that will stick in the eyes of the law. I can perform marriages for them any time we wanted, but they are all willing to WAIT because we all know the tide is turning and that, no matter the issue, we should be SUPPORTING our public officials who also support our ideas and ideals. Not ONE of them has called me a coward for not doing it for them before the laws are changed. They understand that I COULD do it for them, but it’s best to wait until it’s going to STICK, Of course, I’M NOT A PUBLIC OFFICIAL FOR WHOM IT WOULD BE ILLEGAL because of my oath of office. It would not serve any kind of political embarrassment for them to call me a coward, etc. in public, it would just make them look idiotic. The same is true for doing it to a public official who supports your rights, but CANNOT break the law in their position as a public official.
    Are two people in love any more or less in love because they are married or not? Did getting married suddenly change your legal status in this state as a couple? No. When the laws are changed, will your marriage suddenly become legal? No; you’ll need to do it again if you want the rights afforded a married couple.
    To anyone watching from the outside, this certainly looks like you did this in order to make a political statement.
    Personally, I see a great deal of strength of character for Andy upholding the law while at the same time supporting your decisions that contradict those laws. If you and the LGBT community in the area actually spoke up in SUPPORT of Andy and his decision to uphold the law, just think of how much support you would GAIN from him and other public officials when it comes time to vote for those in support of the LGBT community. Having friends in high places is considerably wiser than making enemies there (though from what I know of Andy’s character, he would never make you an enemy…I don’t think Andy has ever met anyone who wasn’t instantly a friend.
    Shame on you Richard, for doing this to your neighbor and to someone who may otherwise have been your friend and who supports you and your partner for your decision.

    • George –

      Interesting to note that until 1967, it was illegal in many parts of the United States to enter into an interracial marriage. That was wrong, and it was overturned and now seems horribly unjust. But how would YOU have felt if you lived during that time and wanted to marry your wife?

      Can you see it in your heart to understand how wrong that was then, and how wrong this is now. And how civil disobedience is one of the common ways to confront unjust and unconstitutional laws.

      You are separated by just a few decades from being in a similar situation. If you had lived during that time, what would YOU have done to marry your wife?

      Richard

      • That’s an excellent pont, Richard!
        What would I have done then? Because my love for my (now) wife is so strong, we would have gone back to her home, Taiwan, where such a marriage was legal. If not there, we would have found another place where it was. We would have found a way. Short of actually moving, We would have understood that our love was strong enough to wait until the laws were changed and would have taken steps toward getting the laws changed, without violence, through proper channels. We would have initiated or joined peaceful protests and had discussions with our representatives to make that happen.
        What would I NOT do?
        Disrespect my neighbor and potential friend and advocate to break the law for me, then publicly call him a coward for it.
        I thought very carefully about your question to me here, Richard, and I am confident that this is how I would act.

        If I was in your situation, I would never hold it against the Mayor for NOT breaking the law and also thank him for stating (now VERY publicly) that he supports my life and love with my partner and begin a serious dialog with him about how we could work together to get the laws changed. MLK jr. did this back then, and this was a perfect opportunity for you to do the same here. You chose instead to try to make a political statement and example out of someone who was agreeing with you while upholding the law he is sworn to uphold.
        You want the laws changed, yet you completely disrespected a person for upholding the law. Which way do you want it, Richard? If there was a state law allowing same sex marriage, and Andy broke that law by refusing to allow you to marry, you’d be outraged about him breaking the law.
        Again I ask, which way do you want it?

        You can salvage this by apologizing and then working together with Andy and other like-minded officials, and also with the rest of the LGBT community and other supporters to get the laws changed. You might be surprised at how much better that works than ranting about how someone didn’t break the law for you.

        On a side note: thank you for taking the time to look me up and find out a little about me.

  5. Andy –

    In Pennsylvania, there are three categories of people that can perform weddings: judges, mayors and the clergy. Why didn’t I go to the clergy first? Because I am a strong believer in the fact that marriage is a civil contract. And if it needs to be affirmed by anyone, it should be affirmed by someone in the civil sector. That leaves judges and mayors.

    I understand that this is your blog, your opinions and your friends. I’m not looking to get into one of your debates. Interesting reading over at https://www.facebook.com/LansdalePatch — perhaps a more neutral source of public opinion.

    Richard

  6. Hey Mr. Mayor. Marijuana is now legal is 16 states but not Pennsylvania. You’ll keep your cops off my back if I enjoy some Mary Jane on Main Street, right? This isn’t political, dude, like Richie I don’t see the need to wait for the Law to change to engage in my personal preferences that don’t hurt nobody nohow. Keep it real!!!

    • Hey Mr. Kratz.
      Seriously bad analogy.
      The Mayor did not stop them from getting married, he simply told them that he could not legally perform the ceremony.
      Your analogy would make more sense if you asked him to JOIN you in smoking weed on Main Street. I’m pretty sure he would decline that request also because it is not legal for him to do so.
      When marijuana laws are changed in this state, and if he was inclined to smoke weed, he might (though he would have no obligation to do so), and, so, when the same-sex marriage laws in this state are changed, he may very well perform same sex marriage ceremonies for Richard and his partner, as well as any other couples who ask him (though he would still have no obligation to do so).
      Breaking the law does not make it right. Changing the law to make it right makes it right.

  7. Richard the bottom line here that I believe you had missed numerous times is that it is still ILLEGAL in this state and until such time as that law is changed you have broken the law just like that idiot who thinks he can make his own laws in this County. By no means am I against same sex marriage but the bigger picture here is that you had asked Mayor Andy to basically break the law. These being the same laws that you would expect the Lansdale PD to uphold in town. The same laws that I and everyone else including you,Ken and Mayor Szekely have to follow. To me you are being hypocritical. You call the Lansdale PD whenever there is a crime going on in town but yet you broke the law yourself when you think about. you go on to say that you want too be afforded the same right as myself and all other couples whom are married. Well….until it is legalized in this state your marriage will not be recognized therefore you still will not be afforded the same rights that a heterosexual married couple would have. Somehow I think you know this however you choose to only see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear instead of realizing that you had basically broken the law. So then does that mean that I can break a law and not be punished for it? 66 other counties in this State follow the laws but for some reason D. Bruce Haines decides to make his own laws. we all know that this will lead to civil disobedience and vigilantism should this continue I am a longtime Lansdale resident and I can say without a doubt that you definitely made it political. You could have asked your friend before you asked the Mayor. I think you were on a political witch hunt and you continued your crusade until you had gotten what you had wanted. Well the bad news is that you are NOT LEGALLY MARRIED. That being said I wish you and Ken the best of luck in your continuing efforts for equality. My suggestion….petition the Governor’s office to overturn the law then when it does get overturned then you can STOP whining and actually get what you want for real.

  8. After reading the Mayor’s reasons for not being able to perform the ceremony, I think that the media was completely biased against him in their reporting. I believe that the Mayor is sincere in why he felt what he could and could not do as a public servant. For two people who campaigned against the Mayor in a primary; it seems disingenuous for them to then want that person to marry them on their special day, considering that a GOOD friend is already duly authorized to perform said ceremony. As a lifelong Democrat who has always been supportive of same-sex marriage, I am strongly in favor of how the Mayor reacted to his being asked in performing this ceremony. If I lived in Lansdale, I would cross party lines and vote for the incumbent.

  9. Tough issue to wade through. Personally I’m a big supporter of gay marriage or civil unions or any other legal term that allows our fellow citizens to publicly commit their love for another and be afforded the same opportunities as we hetero married couples have. I think we will look back as a society in a few dacades and feel some shame for not pushing it through sooner. It’s the right thing to do.

    In terms of this back and forth between you two guys I will probably say a few things that both won’t like, but I hope you’ll understand that it doesn’t change my pride in having you both as friends and neighbors. I think open discussion leads to better undertstanding. In that spirit I write my remarks:

    I think when a personal value system and moral code conflicts with the rule of law it is up to the individual to make their own value judgement as to what trumps the other. I think you are off base, Richard, calling Andy a coward in a public forum. Andy did not make the law nor did he do anything to prevent you and Ken from marrying. As a public official he made a commitment to follow the law, as he interpreted, with the guidance of the Borough Solicitor,(whom he is expected to counsel for any quesitons of his post within Borough, County, State and federal law). When my wife and I planned to marry we aksed our Catholic priest friend to marry us outside at her parent’s farm. His response was that in his eyes God would approve of us getting married anywhere, but Church rules prevented him from marrying us anywhere other than in front of an altar. We were bummed as our wishes could not be granted but we rolled with it without any personal grudge, and ended up having a terrific day. I don’t look back at my wedding day fretting over that we didn’t get exactly what we wanted, and I hope you don’t either. Why let something outside your control unnecessarily affect what is one of the most important moments in your life?

    Andy also is not single-handedly responsible to bring forth local anti-discrimination legislation as you suggested. So in that vein while being critical of Andy as the local person most responsible for what you haved deemed discriminatory, perhaps you could have lobbied the Council sooner to pass local legislation as you suggested last evening. That may have made it easier for Andy to legally officiate the ceremony in the Solicitors eyes.

    Lastly it is undeniable that we are entering the political season in Lansdale. I would be interested to take a poll of candidates to see how each might have handled the situation. If they say that they would not have officiated the ceremony, should they be considered biggots? If they feel strongly enough about the issue to go against the rule of law, it makes a voter wonder in what other areas will that person be willing to disregard something they vowed to uphold b/c it offends their personal moral code.

    Now with all that being said, if I were in Andy’s shoes I would have enthusiastically accepted and perfomed the ceremony. I would have neither worried about the vow when sworn into the position, nor the advice of the Borough Solicitor. I will be the first to tell you that I will 99% of the time act according to what I believe is right, regardless of what the law says, cponsequences be damned. I think this could have a been a good opportunity for the Mayor to publicly support something that is long overdue. And what is the worst that could have happened? I doubt State officials would have acted against the Borough because of the Mayor’s actions. But again that is me. I wouldn’t think any less of any public official who decided that the rule of law should be upheld at minimum while acting in an official capacity.

    Hopefully the fence can be mended. You two both should be back spending your time and energy on improving this wonderful town, as you have been for several years Hopefully that will be the norm again soon. – Peace, Drew

  10. Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit

    Richard Strahm you are a bully and a petty tyrant. May everyone continue to see through your dull, childish, and lackluster stunts. I have nothing but compassion for those who find themselves in your crosshairs. Hopefully you are never offered a more substantial soapbox from which to spew your ‘woe is me’ ‘I’m being discriminated’ upon coercive dribble.

  11. Your friendship with the mayor was a hoax. Disingenuous. Face it, apologize for it and I am sure he will forgive you for it. You know you are wrong on this.

  12. Pingback: Call The WAAHmbulance: Lansdale Mayor Refuses To Bend To Marriage Derangement Syndrome | Grumpy Dyke

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Szekely for exercising rare common sense in this whole marriage hullabaloo. I am a lesbian transsexual who thinks that activists and politicians need to get their priorities straight. I even wrote a blog about this, its on my page grumpydyke.wordpress.com

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