Rights, Liberties, and Responsibilities

Declaration of Independence

Watching the Civil Rights Movement unfold had a profound impact on me as a child. The idea that small groups of people, facing great odds and opposition, could come together in a nationally coordinated campaign to change the country is something that continues to inspire me – and is still happens every day across our Commonwealth!

I am proud to be a part of the continuing struggle for equality. My marriage equality bill has generated a lot of attention across the state since it was introduced in the Spring of 2009. I have participated in debates with other legislators and leading advocates for keeping the status quo, been contacted by Pennsylvanians from across the state, and have given interviews to countless media outlets. One thing stands out: I have yet to hear a compelling reason why the government should have a say in which two non-related, consenting adults can marry. Learn more about Senate Bill 719.

As Democratic chair of the Judiciary Committee, prison reform is another issue important to me. From 2007 to 2008, Pennsylvania’s prison population grew dramatically faster than any other state. Currently, Pennsylvania must build a prison every year to keep up with inmate population – at a huge cost to taxpayers. At the same time, our crime rates are not decreasing at a comparable rate. It may be a politically unpopular thing to say, but we may have made too many things illegal, and we have certainly mandated sentencing at an unsustainable level. Going forward, we need to be smart and pragmatic. We need to give sentencing rights back to judges, and we must reevaluate how the law treats non-violent offenders.

On a related topic, I am proud to announce that my legislation to ban the practice of shackling pregnant female prisoners while they are giving birth was signed into law by Gov. Corbett in 2010.  Additionally, a companion bill to my legislation that would create guidelines for posting the Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number in Pennsylvania establishments was also signed into law by Gov. Corbett. Under the law, the hotline number must be placed prominently in key establishments to provide resources and information to victims and citizens in places of transit or where victims are being forced to work. This hotline number allows people to report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in a given area, request training and technical assistance, and receive general information.

Last updated: August 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm