Local Activists Hopping the Atlantic to Fight for Marriage Equality in Ireland

Powell, Lassiter and TK are heading to Ireland to volunteer for the country's groundbreaking marriage referendum.

Trevor Powell, Jay Lassiter and John Keating are heading to Ireland to volunteer for the country’s groundbreaking marriage referendum.

On Tuesday, three local LGBT activists are flying across the proverbial pond to volunteer for Ireland’s marriage referendumTrevor Powell, attorney John Keating, and civil rights activist and political blogger Jay Lassiter met while working for Garden State Equality during the New Jersey marriage equality campaign in 2009. They’ve worked on a number of campaigns together since, but now they’re ready to take their teamwork overseas.

The referendum makes Ireland the only nation in the world that’s asking its citizens to vote for marriage equality. If the vote passes this Friday, May 22nd, couples will have the right to marry in a country that currently only recognizes civil unions. I shot Powell, a recent graduate of Temple University, a few questions to see what they have planned for their trip.

Are you going with an organization?
We aren’t affiliated with any organization. This is literally a group of political friends with several years’ experience behind working on LGBT campaigns who decided that this opportunity was too important to turn down.

Why did you decide to do this?
Jay, John, and I decided that, after working several LGBT-related campaigns in the U.S., we should contribute our parts to the marriage equality campaign in Ireland. The three of us worked to turn out the vote in Maine and Maryland in 2012. Those were among the first states in the U.S. to pass marriage equality via the ballot box. We are hoping to take that same success over to Ireland.

Why Ireland?
Ireland is the first nation in the world to put marriage equality to a country-wide vote, and, if the referendum passes, it will be a watershed movement for the LGBT movement worldwide. Despite the promising poll numbers which indicate 70 percent of Irish voters favor marriage equality, there is still no room for complacency. The actual vote will be much tighter than indicated and turnout, which is key to the success of the campaign, will likely be low. We cannot take the outcome of the referendum for granted, nor can we leave it to other people to expect it to pass.

What will the job actually entail? 
The job will entail canvassing neighborhoods, phone-banking, and turning out the vote from students on campuses like the University of Dublin and Trinity College.

What kind of insight can a group of activists from Philly bring to this cause?
The rights of same-sex couples to marry is the civil rights issue of our generation. For the overwhelming majority of millennials, granting same-sex couples the right to marry is a no-brainer. The younger generations need to take their support to the ballot box and be reminded just how pivotal this vote is—not only for Ireland, but for the rest of the world, too. The goal of this campaign is to get equality-minded voters, who are clearly the majority, out to the polls.

Supreme Court Justices Seem Divided Following Gay Marriage Arguments

Supreme Court Building

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This morning, Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in a handful of cases challenging the Constitution’s right to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. As The New York Times reports, the outcome isn’t necessarily as hopeful-sounding as some of us may have expected. Audio recordings of today’s arguments are slowly popping up on the Supreme Court website (hear part one here), but NYT offers a helpful rundown of how each justice was feeling at the end of the session:

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Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Marriage Equality Case

What could arguably be the biggest history-making event of 2015 begins tomorrow, when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments over the issue of marriage equality in the United States. The American Foundation for Equal Rights’ Matt Baume put together this snappy video to let you know what to expect, which is basically not a whole lot just yet.

He explains that there will be arguments presented by both sides of the case: The states (Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee) who argue that they have the right to deny same-sex marriage, and several married couples from those states who say their right to marry is protected by the Constitution.” The two questions the Supreme Court will need to answer are (1) whether the Fourteenth Amendment gives states the right to ban gay people from marrying and (2) whether the fourteenth amendment grants states the right to refuse same-sex marriages performed in other states.

When the arguments are finished, the Supreme Court will post audio recordings on their website so we can all hear what was said; and the the Supreme Court will take some time to weigh the comments. It’s projected we’ll have a ruling sometime in late-June, which, coincidentally is Pride month. “It’s impossible to say exactly how the Court will rule, but you might want to prepare your wedding invitations now—just in case,” says Baume, with a twinkle in his eye.

Stay tuned to the Internet for any updates!

WATCH: Cory Booker Argue for Same-Sex Marriage on Senate Floor

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Just two weeks from the day the Supreme Court will hear arguments about making marriage equality legal nationwide, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has taken to the floor of the U.S. Senate to argue the importance of same-sex marriage to his colleagues.

“We cannot fail now. Love is on the line. Citizenship is on the line,” Booker said on the Senate floor. “We cannot deny the worth of one American without denying the worth dignity and strength of our nation as a whole.”

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GAY NEWS FLASH: Presbyterian Church (USA) Changes Its Constitution to Embrace Same-Sex Marriage

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The largest body of Presbyterians in the country, Presbyterian Church (USA), has voted to change the definition of marriage in its constitution to include same-sex couples. The Washington Post reports:

The 171 regional presbyteries (local leadership bodies within the PCUSA) have been voting on whether to change the wording to call marriage a contract “between a woman and a man” to being “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” On Tuesday, the denomination reached its needed majority of “yes” votes from at least 86 presbyteries to take effect. The change will be included in the church’s “Book of Order,” part of its constitution, taking effect on June 21.

The Presbyterian Church has a growing record of LGBT acceptance. Last June, as the Post points out, the Church voted to allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages. And right here in Philadelphia we have David Norse, who became the first openly gay man to be ordained Presbyterian minister in Philly. He continues to do a variety of outreach for the LGBT community through his work with Broad Street Ministry.

For more, check out the Post’s story here.

Gay Couple to Be Married On Mural Arts Love Train for the First Time

mural arts love train gay couple

Mural Arts‘ annual Love Train is gearing up to embark on its fifth and final journey on February 8th. The trek is a slow-speed, privately chartered tour of Steve Powers’ now-iconic Love Letter project on the Market-Frankford Line, and, as always, organizers are choosing one lucky local couple to be married on the tour. This year, however, there’s a little twist: To celebrate the first year of marriage equality in Pennsylvania, that lucky couple will be same-sex.

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IN THE WINGS: A Conversation with The Matter of Frank Schaefer Star Paul Kuhn

Paul headshotMy name is … Paul Kuhn. The “u” in Kuhn is supposed to have an umlaut over it, but I think that is way too pretentious. The only way I would do that is if i could utter more than one phrase in German, which I cannot. I do speak modern Greek, though.

I am … happiest when I am designing/building a set. I love acting but my greatest love is designing and building for Curio Theatre. I am a rabid recycler. Don’t leave a piece of wood or steel on the street because it will be on a set at Curio.

How would you describe The Matter of Frank Schaefer in one sentence? Raised with evangelical homophobic principals, a United Methodist minister transforms himself into an advocate for the LGBTQ community and challenges the bigotry of his own Church in an ecclesiastical court.

What’s your favorite thing about playing Frank Schaefer? My favorite part is that I got to hang around this man for over a year. I have never had this much insight into a character I am playing.

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GAY NEWS FLASH: Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Bans in Four States

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati voted to uphold Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee’s right to ban gay marriage. The New York Times has more:

By a two-to-one vote, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the right of states to ban same-sex marriage, overturning lower-court decisions in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that had found such restrictions to be unconstitutional.

The long-awaited decision, written by Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ​contradicted rulings by four other federal circuit courts and appeared almost certain to force the Supreme Court to decide the same-sex marriage issue for the nation.

The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit concluded that states have the right to set rules for marriage.

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