Philly ‘Summit’ Leaders Planning Dual Rallies Leading Up to ‘Day of Decision’

Two local activists have created an all-new group devoted to tackling LGBT issues, and are planning two - count 'em, two - rallies for June.

Janice Rael (left) and Wendy Forbes (right).

Boy oh boy, are these girls ever busy.

Gal pals Janice Rael and Wendy Forbes are no strangers to Philly activism. Rael is vice president of Delaware Valley Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Forbes, meanwhile, is vice chair at Philly Family Pride. But after getting together and realizing they were meeting on more than just an every-so-often basis as local activists, they re-thought their game plan, took to Facebook, and called out to about 10 other activist leaders in the Philadelphia region.

The result is what they’ve dubbed, “The Summit.”

“It’s a totally new group,” Rael says. “We didn’t even intend to start an actual group; we just started meeting, and because we’re all activists, leaders, and Facebook friends, we go to the same events all day long and are members of similar groups. … We finally got together and said, ‘We have all this leadership power, and all of us are leaders within our own comunities, working on our own issues. Let’s pull together, combine our resources, and try to harness this grassroots energy.'”

Think: Lord of the Rings-roundtable type meetings, only on LGBT steroids. The group of Philly activist leaders — representing members from both the gay and trans communities — meets once every six to eight weeks, Rael says. Alongside Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania (which, strangely enough, does not have a Philadelphia chapter), “The Summit” is in the process of planning its second-ever rally for marriage equality, currently slated for June 22 at 10 a.m. in Harrisburg.

“I saw that [Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania] was doing this rally and trying to get 1,000 people to Harrisburg to show support for marriage equality, and that they want to make sure there’s support from all across the state,” Rael says. “And right now, we’re being outnumbered by the states surrounding us in terms of marriage equality, so the time is now. … We’re trying to bring people from every area of Pennsylvania to the rally, to get legislators’ attention and let people know we really want it here.”

Rael and Forbes are currently organiziing a bus that will transport 50 people from William Way Community Center in Philadelphia to downtown Harrisburg on June 22. All of this is in addition to a separate “Day of Decision” rally to be held in D.C. on June 24, which is when the duo expects the Supreme Court’s decisions on its marriage equality cases to be handed down — though the decisions may come as early as June 17, which Rael says may not only throw a wrench in their schedule, but influence the mood of the Harrisburg rally.

“Will we be celebrating, or protesting? We won’t know until the ‘Day of Decision,'” Rael says. “It may make the marriage equality rally that much bigger… Or it could turn into a protest. It’s all up in the air.”

The next “Summit” meeting will be held June 19. Rael also welcomes newbies to the meetings: “Regular activists,” she says, are as welcome as anyone else.