Editor’s note: This piece was originally located on our website, www.me4pa.org in 2014. The website no longer exists, and the organization’s name has changed. Sometimes it is valuable to look back at where the journey began to have a better understanding of how far we have yet to go.
On June 21, 2011, while sitting at my desk and congratulating the folks in New York for their hard fought battle to win marriage equality, I realized that Pennsylvania lacked a similar organization that existed on Facebook to reach out to everyday people. Sure, Equality PA existed, and so too Keystone Progress, but to me they seemed like lobbying groups on the other side of PA. I wanted to bring the voices of average people to the table in our fight for LGBT equality. I defined the mission of this new Facebook page as seeking marriage equality. Thus, Gay Marriage for Pennsylvania was born.
After ongoing dialog on our page and the recommendation of several fans, I added seeking a ban on discrimination for all public accommodations, and putting an end to bullying against LGBT children in Pennsylvania’s schools. Suddenly, the simple Facebook page grew. We merged with the group Equal Rights for All Pennsylvanians, and changed our name to Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania.
Since our founding, we participated in the parade and rally in August 2012. That was the first of many rallies and other events in 2013. In March, we held the Candlelight Vigils across Pennsylvania in honor of the oral arguments at the US Supreme Court for the US v. Windsor (DOMA), and Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8) cases. Over 100 people attended the rally on a cold March evening, including candidate for Governor, John Hanger.
We followed that event on April 26 with the delivery of 3 petitions to the Governor’s representative in Erie, PA. The petitions dealt with marriage equality, ending conversion therapy, and ending legal discrimination against LGBT people in all public accommodations in PA.
In June, we attended the Pride Picnic at Presque Isle, Erie, PA. A few weeks later, we marched on the capitol in Harrisburg with our friends from the Philadelphia Summit, Equality PA, and the ACLU. We spoke at the Day of Decision rally in Pittsburgh with our friends from the Delta Foundation and the ACLU. We attended a GEAE Summit in Erie that dealt with marriage equality. In July, Josh Szczesny held a rally in Erie and a benefit concert in Scranton. Three different SKA bands performed, and everyone had a good time.
In August, we attended the Erie Pride Parade and Rally for a second year in a row. We had a table at the rally, and even raffled a gift basket donated by our local coordinator in Erie, Jason Brendel. Also in August, we held our own gathering at Market Square in Pittsburgh, where Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock, PA was awarded the ME4PA Equality Award.
In September, the ME4PA leadership team packed up their gear and drove to Philadelphia. Our rally at Logan Circle attracted over 100 attendees, including Representatives Mark Cohen and Brian Sims. Also at our rally was John Hanger, who has repeatedly shown his commitment to LGBT equality. At the rally, hosted by our Philadelphia Regional Organizer Tom Hall, ME4PA proudly awarded Brian Sims and D. Bruce Hanes the ME4PA Equality Award. Coincidentally, the Parade of Chariots was happening at the same time as our rally, and as a result, the rally was briefly interrupted by a very colorful parade of people. ME4PA not to be outdone, joined the parade, and wished our new friends all the best.
In October. Central West ME4PA Regional Organizer Sara Campbell held the Equality Picnic on the grounds of the Courthouse in Mercer, PA. Along with the canned goods food drive for their local food bank, the regional group brought together vendors and leaders from groups as diverse as YSUnity, PFLAG of New Castle, Workplace Opportunity of Pittsburgh, and others. Michael Muha, candidate for the PA 50th Senate district also attended and spoke passionately to the crowd about the need for workplace protections for all in the LGBT community. Steve Glassman, the first openly gay man appointed to the Human Relations Commission under Governor Ed Rendell reiterated those points.
As October ended, we signed a partnership agreement with our friends at Marriage Equality USA. In November, our regional organizers across Pennsylvania, collected donated canned goods and household items for the needy in communities from Erie to Philadelphia and everywhere in between. In December, Joshua Szczesny and Daisy Smith put together Noodles for Equality in Erie, an event to draw from members of the community to give to Toys for Tots, and to gather people together to showcase the organization.
Now that we are into 2014, we have already held several events. On February 14, couples across Pennsylvania teamed up with ME4PA and MEUSA in the “License our Love” campaign and attempted to get married at their local courthouses. On February 27 & 28, we held an online event in which we encouraged people to call or email their legislators. On March 26, we held our first rally in Erie to kick off the 2014 Rally Season. The calendar is already filled with events for this year, and we will keep on fighting for equality throughout every event.
Our future is incredibly bright. With the support of the legislature and the people, we will work alongside other LGBT organizations to push for passage of PA House Bill and Senate Bill 300 which will ban discrimination in all public accommodations. We are pushing for passage of PA Senate Bill 719, which will allow marriage for same-sex couples, and for Senate Bill 872 which will ban conversion therapy. My many thanks to all who have supported our efforts and continue to do so. In solidarity,
David E. Moore
Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania
Founder and President