About Us



Welcome to Pennsylvania Equality Project


The Pennsylvania Equality Project is the largest grassroots organization in Pennsylvania fighting for LGBTQ civil rights. We seek an end to discrimination, a ban on conversion therapy, protection from bullying for students and teachers in Pennsylvania schools, and fairness and equality under the laws of Pennsylvania and the United States.



PEP Banner

Founded in 2011, Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania was initially an organization dedicated to fighting for and winning equal marriage rights for same-sex couples living in Pennsylvania. On May 20, 2014, Judge John Jones of the Central Pennsylvania federal district ordered that same-sex couples be granted the same marriage rights as opposite-sex couples. With the victory in Court, came the need to change the name of the organization.


Now known as the Pennsylvania Equality Project or PEP for short, the organization remains committed to raising awareness of equal rights issues across Pennsylvania. We do this through our newsletter, petitions, rallies, and attending intersectional events with other organizations across the Commonwealth. We remain committed to providing as much information for the LGBTQ community as possible. If you have comments, questions, or concerns, please contact us at info@paequality.com.

Our Mission Statement

The Pennsylvania Equality Project (PEP) seeks to end legal discrimination based on real or perceived sexual and gender identity. Furthermore PEP also seeks to end maltreatment against people within the LGBTQ+ community. PEP is working with other organizations to ban conversion therapy on minors in Pennsylvania. PEP’s goal is to secure equal and equitable treatment under the law for all Pennsylvanians regardless of ethnic heritage, sexual and/or gender identity, age, or race, disability, and take any appropriate actions toward that goal.

Equality Award Winners

  • Bruce Hanes
  • Caitlyn Strohmeyer
  • Jason Goodman
  • Leach Equality Award
  • Brian Sims and Dave

Paula Johnston, ME4PA SWPA Regional Leader

Paula Johnston formed her group known as Marriage Equality for Southwest PA shortly after ME4PA formed. She has led rallies and demonstrations in a part of Pennsylvania that is not accustomed to such events. In 2012 and 2013, Paula held Valentine’s Day events at the Fayette County Courthouse. She has been involved with the LGBT civil rights movement for many years, and is a source of inspiration and excitement within Fayette and Westmoreland Counties.


Michael Mahler, Publisher, Erie Gay News

Michael Kenton Mahler founded the Erie Gay News in 1992. Since then, he has served as the editor and publisher. He has also organized the annual Pride Picnic at Presque Isle along the Lake Erie shoreline, and the annual Pride March and Rally in August. Michael is the President of the NWPA Pride Alliance, and has organized events ranging from the candidate forum to showcase political candidates for upcoming elections, to his outreach with Equality PA to get HB and SB 300 passed. For all his dedication and commitment to LGBT rights, we are proud to include Michael as our first recipient in 2014.


Senator Daylin Leach

PA State Senator Daylin Leach (D, PA Sen 17) has been a champion for civil rights, especially for those in the LGBT community for nearly a decade in the Senate. He has introduced legislation that would allow same-sex couples to wed long before the idea was popular. He is a primary sponsor of legislation to end legal discrimination and to protect LGBT youth from the harmful effects of “ex-gay conversion” therapy. After D. Bruce Hanes agreed to issue marriage licenses in Montgomery County to same-sex couples, Senator Leach has been officiating wedding ceremonies for the lovely couples who have asked him to do so. For all his efforts to fight for the LGBT community, Senator Daylin Leach received the fourth ME4PA Equality Award.

Equality Award Winners 2017

The following people were awarded the Pennsylvania Equality Project’s Equality Award for 2017: Caitlyn Strohmeyer (President, TransFamily of NWPA), Jason Landau Goodman (Executive Director, Pennsylvania Youth Congress) David Moore (President and Founder, Pennsylvania Equality Project), and the Lifetime Achievement Award Janice Rael (Advocate and Activist).

Equality Award Winners 2016

The following people were named Equality Award winners for 2016: Michael Mahler (Editor, Erie Gay News), Daylin Leach (PA State Senator).

Equality Award Winners 2013 – 2015

The following people were awarded the Pennsylvania Equality Project or Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania Equality Award between 2013 and 2015: John Fetterman (Mayor of Braddock, PA and now PA Lt. Governor), D. Bruce Hanes (Clerk of the Orphans Court, Montgomery County, PA) State Representative Brian Sims (Philadelphia) Paula Johnston, ME4PA SWPA Regional Leader.

It Passed

On May 20, 2014, federal district court Judge John Jones III issued a ruling in which he declared that marriage is a fundamental right, and to exclude same-sex couples violates the US Constitution. He emphasized his hope that one day, laws that cause discrimination would be discarded into the dustbin of history.

Representative Brian Sims and
Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes

On September 28, 2013, while in Philadelphia for an equal rights rally, PA State Representative Brian Sims received his award. As the first openly gay man at the time of his election to the PA House, Brian Sims has been a stalwart leader in the fight for marriage equality. He has fought for passage of House Bill 300 which would end discrimination against the LGBT community in all public accommodations. He has fought for HB 1686 which would grant marriage equality to all Pennsylvanians, including those seeking to enter a same-sex marriage. He attempted to speak out about the US Supreme Court decisions in the matter of Hollingsworth v. Perry, and US v. Windsor in June, 2013. Before he could even begin to speak, the Chairman of the State Government Committee, Representative Daryl Metcalf objected. Later, Rep. Metcalf revealed that whatever Rep. Sims had to say would violate “God’s law.”: Apparently, Representative Metcalf is unaware that he is elected to run a civil government, not a theocracy. For all the advocacy, and work he has put forth in the PA legislature, we are proud to honor Representative Sims.


As Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court of Montgomery County, PA, it is the job of D. Bruce Hanes to issue marriage licenses and certificates to all people who come to his office seeking to legally wed in Pennsylvania. As a result of the US Supreme Court decisions in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, Bruce Hanes began issuing licenses to same-sex couples. He firmly believed that if he failed to do so, he would be violating his oath and his duty to uphold the law.  According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “D. Bruce Hanes, Montgomery County’s register of wills, announced his office would issue marriage licenses to gay couples. The move would defy a state law that has been in existence since 1996.” I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law,” Hanes said, according to the Inquirer. Because he boldly moved forward to protect the rights of the LGBT Community, D. Bruce Hanes was given the ME4PA Equality Award at the ceremony for Rep. Sims. Mr. Hanes could not attend the rally because of prior commitments.