Pa. House GOP agrees to drop discriminatory tax rebate provision

State Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., persuaded his Republican colleagues yesterday to approve an amendment that would eliminate a provision in a proposed tax law that discriminated against LGBT Pennsylvanians. The provision would have prevented domestic partners from equally participating in the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program in the same way that other, heterosexual family members would have been able to. In a last minute compromise that followed weeks of thwarted attempts to include domestic partners in the legislation, the House adopted Sims compromise amendment in a virtually unanimous vote in yesterdays session.

House Bill 468, originally crafted to create a class of family members that could apply for a tax rebate on behalf of a deceased relative, would not have recognized the hundreds of thousands of same sex couples in Pennsylvania who would have otherwise qualified in the event of the death of their loved one. The compromise language now allows any executor or administrator of a will to apply for the rebate on behalf of the deceased partners estate; applying equally to thousands of Pennsylvanians who choose not to be married or are legally forbidden from doing so. The overall bill (H.B. 468) could receive final House approval as soon as today.

Sims had previously attempted to offer an amendment to H.B. 468 that would specifically enumerate domestic partners among those able to file a Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate application on behalf of their deceased partner. After Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, scheduled the bill for a vote several times, only to pull it each time Sims offered his amendment, Sims was approached by Republican leadership to broker a deal. In the end, the Republican maker of the bill, State Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks, agreed to alter the language and avoid discriminating against those in domestic partnerships.

Supporting legislation which includes domestic partners isnt going to create more gay people, and it wont even create more gay relationships, they already exist, said Sims. What we have here is an issue of simple fairness and Im very pleased that virtually all of my colleagues recognized that purposefully excluding domestic partners in this bill would have forced countless Pennsylvanians to lose their homes right after losing their loved ones.

Sims indicated that he is already looking for other legislation in which to finally define domestic partners under Pennsylvania law but was satisfied that the new, more inclusive language that was finally agreed upon treated the Commonwealths domestic partners no differently than their heterosexual, married counterparts.

Census information made available in 2010 shows that an estimated 283,000 unmarried couples live together in Pennsylvania. Notably, the lone dissention in the near-unanimous vote came from Tea Party and Right-Wing poster boy Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, who after first voting for the Sims Amendment, then changed his yes vote to a no at the end of session.