PHILADELPHIA – Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Freedom to Marry launched “Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania” with two press conferences in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to introduce the campaign and key partners.
Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania is a grassroots public education effort to build support for the freedom to marry in Pennsylvania. The campaign will begin a dialogue with Pennsylvanian residents about why marriage is important to same-sex couples and their families.
“Gay people are part of the families of Pennsylvania; I know, because I grew up here with my loving family, now including my niece and nephews as well as my parents, siblings, and sisters-in-law. But Pennsylvania is not doing right by gay Pennsylvanians and their loved ones, denying couples who’ve made a commitment in life the commitment under law that is marriage,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry.
“Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania aims to spark conversations, neighbor to neighbor, to grow support for the freedom to marry so that Pennsylvanians need not cross the border to New York, New Jersey, or Delaware to celebrate their love and secure protections for the families they are part of all across Pennsylvania,” he continued.
Speakers at the launch event in Philadelphia included Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter; Rev. Jeffrey Haskins, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church; Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania; Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU Pennsylvania; Shawn Werner, director of Political Operations at Freedom to Marry; and Helena Miller and Dara Raspberry, plaintiffs in the ACLU’s marriage equality lawsuit, Whitewood v. Wolf.
“The more we get to know our gay and lesbian neighbors, the more we see that marriage matters to same-sex couples and their families for the same reasons it matters to straight couples: love, commitment, and family,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. “Pennsylvania’s ban on marriages for same-sex couples is harmful and indefensible. We look forward to continuing our efforts to make sure that every Pennsylvanian will be free to marry the person he or she loves.”
Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania sends the message that same-sex couples want to marry for the same reasons as opposite-sex couples: to make a lifetime promise to each other, to share in the joys and responsibilities of marriage, and to take care of their family.
“The stories of the families involved in the ACLU’s lawsuit show why it is so important to challenge this hurtful law that denies committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Pennsylvania. For the sake of the families and loved ones of the tens of thousands of LGBT people in the commonwealth, Equality PA is proud to be working with this campaign to build understanding on why marriage matters with leaders and decision makers,” said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality PA.
Numerous elected officials have endorsed the campaign, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pittsburgh Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto. “Pennsylvania, like many states, is moving toward the freedom to marry as more and more citizens and officials recognize that discrimination is not the direction of progress,” said Nutter, who is also co-chair of the national Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign. “Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania is an important way to bring the conversation back to our cities and towns and to local Pennsylvania residents in order to grow support for marriage in our communities and show how it improves the quality of life for our families.”
“I’m proud to be a part of Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania and to begin the much-needed work to win marriage for same-sex couples in this great state,” said Peduto. “Marriage is important to everyone, gay or straight. Allowing all committed couples to legally marry is a matter of fairness and equality for all people.”
Businesses are increasingly recognizing that marriage for same-sex couples is important to Pennsylvania’s economy. Robert Hanson, CEO of American Eagle Outfitters, an endorser of the campaign, said, “American Eagle Outfitters is committed to diversity and treating all workers with fairness and respect. We are more productive as a workforce and as a society when everyone can live authentically, with honesty, bringing our true selves to work each and every day. With our collective efforts, we can fight, together, for equal rights and for marriage equality that will enhance the ability of Pennsylvania businesses, including ours, to recruit and retain talented employees and ensure a more equitable working environment. It’s the right thing to do. And, it’s the right thing for business.”
In a Franklin and Marshall poll done this past May, 53% of Pennsylvania residents said they support the right of same-sex couples to get married.
More about the campaign, including a list of groups and individuals endorsing the campaign, is available at: www.whymarriagematterspa.org