Saturday afternoon, Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA) and a number of civil rights organizations rallied at Logan Circle in Philadelphia to invigorate the late-blooming advocacy efforts for LGBT rights in Pennsylvania. Apart from raising awareness of LGBT issues, the rally marked the inaugural event for MEUSA’s newly formed Philadelphia Regional Organizing Committee (Philly–ROC) — the first local organization in the Liberty City that focuses on marriage equality issues. With Pennsylvania lagging far behind its neighboring states on LGBT rights issues — being the only Northeastern state without any form of same-sex marriage or civil union recognition — the expansion by MEUSA of the new organization is a welcome addition to LGBT advocacy groups in the Keystone State. Its strategic location in the state would certainly boost marriage equality efforts across the eastern region, with Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania (ME4PA) at present mainly having a larger presence in the western part of the state.
“Because Bill and I were married in Vermont in 2009, and have moved back home to Philadelphia since, it’s important for us to work for the continuity among the states; this way when we go from state to state, we don’t have to figure out if we’re married or not. Now that we have an established Philly–ROC, we can bring the national agenda to our hometown, where American personal liberty were first created. The community of Philadelphia is embarassed about the current state of Pennsylvania, particularly that our neighbors have already come on board, and now it’s our time,” said Bob Sullivan, local organizer for Philly–ROC.
The crowd was particularly energized to have two state representatives who amid busy schedules attended and spoke at the event: Rep. Mark Cohen, a long-time ally for the LGBT community, and Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly-gay representative in Pennsylvania. Rep. Brian Sims was honored with Equality Award by ME4PA for his outspoken advocacy on LGBT equality issues, including introducing marriage equality legislation with Rep. Steve McCarter following the Supreme Court’s rulings in June, and a legislation banning anti-gay conversion therapy for minors with Rep. Gerald Mullery. Coinciding with college campus day, the festive event attracted a lively student crowd, who among the hundreds of attendees signed up as new members for the various organizations. With New Jersey’s judge ruling on allowing same-sex marriage just announced the day before, the crowd was optimistic about the possibility of joining the ranks of their suburban neighbor in the fight for equality.
“I could not be more proud of our grassroots leaders who have worked so hard to launch Philly–ROC,” said MEUSA Executive Director Brian Silva. “We know we cannot do it alone and I am looking forward to supporting our partners in Pennsylvania.”
The event was co-sponsored by MEUSA, ME4PA, the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (DVAU), and The Summit Coalition of LGBT Activists and Allies. It drew a long list of speakers from local to national organizations such as the Human Resource Campaign (HRC) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Among the speakers were Brian Silva (Executive director of MEUSA), David Moore (President and founder of ME4PA), Bob Sullivan (local organizer for Philly–ROC), Tom Hall (organizer for the rally), Janice Rael (local leader for DVAU), and John Hanger (Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate).
For more information or to get involved with Philly–ROC, visit http://www.marriageequality.org/philly.