Voice for Equality: Nila Marrone

Nila Marrone is a Bolivian American and emeritus professor from the University of Connecticut. Since her retirement in 1997, she has been a full-time volunteer for PFLAG and other organizations that work for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Her passion is educating families and society at large to move them from homophobia to acceptance to the celebration of LGBT persons. See page 3 here for more [Link]

Since 2005, Nila has been a Marriage Ambassador for Empire State Pride Agenda working to achieve marriage equality in New York State. She also participated in the Radio Tour of Freedom to Marry week, Feb. 13-18, 2006.

In the following video, Nila speaks first about why marriage equality matters to her and about her work with PFLAG:

Freedom to Marry salutes Nila Marrone as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: James Hormel

James Catherwood Hormel is a philanthropist and heir to the fortune of George A. Hormel, founder of Hormel Foods (producers of SPAM and other meat products). He lives in San Francisco.

Hormel earned a B.A. in history (1955) from Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania and a law degree (1958) from the University of Chicago Law School (later serving as Dean of the latter school.) He was a member of the 1996 U.S. delegations to the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the boards of directors of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. He was appointed United States Ambassador to Luxembourg by President Bill Clinton in 1999. When he was appointed through a recess appointment, he became the first openly gay man to represent the United States as an ambassador. His partner, Timothy Wu, held the Bible on which he swore his oath of office.

In 1991, Hormel donated funds to create the Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library. The Center, which is named in recognition of that gift, officially opened in 1995, making available an outstanding collection of LGBT materials. His community involvement and philanthropic activity with organizations like People For the American Way and the Human Rights Campaign have brought him many awards and honors. Learn more here [Link] and here [Link]

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Voice for Equality: Marina Gatto

Bay Area resident Marina Gatto has been a constant fixture in the media as a spokesperson and leader for LGBT community since the age of eight. As a child of two lesbian moms, Ramona and Arzu, Gatto has served as an activist for Equality California/ Marriage Equality California, COLAGE, Immigration Equality, Love Sees No Borders, and GLSEN.

She has made numerous television and documentary appearances on such programs as Nickelodeon's "My Family Is Different" with Rosie O'Donnell and Linda Ellerbee; "The Today Show" with Katie Couric; "The Montel Williams Show"; the ABC Family show "Switched"; the documentaries "Limited Partnerships", "Pursuit of Justice", and "In My Shoes"; the HBO documentary "All Aboard" with Rosie O'Donnell; and countless other news specials and programs. Learn more [Link]

My name is Marina Gatto, and I am 17 years old. I am a leader and civil rights activist. I am an honor roll student, varsity athlete, and a previous class president of my school. I am a child with two parents who love me, and who love each other very much. My parents are two beautiful and amazing lesbian moms. Unlike most other children in the United States, my parents do not have the right to be legally married. Our family is denied basic civil rights.

Like our governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of my moms is not from this country. My mom does not have the right to immigrate however, because my parents are a same sex couple. Our family struggles to stay together, knowing that we can be torn apart at any time. While Governor Schwarzenegger is living the "American dream," my family's dream is one of basic civil rights.

I stand here today representing MILLIONS of children nationwide who come from LGBT families. Children like me, whose parents cannot legally marry, whose families do not have the legal protection that marriage brings, and whom are being told that their families are not valued like other families. We are children who must stand by and watch as the leaders of our country vow that no child will be left behind, yet our families are torn apart, devalued and cheated of essential rights that are needed to protect us.

As a child of LGBT parents, I represent millions of other children when I say that we, too, want our parents given the right to marry. Marriage is the ONLY way that my family can stay together and keep me from losing one of my parents. We must not accept the discrimination that President Bush and leaders of this country are forcing upon the LGBT community. We must stand strong in demanding our civil rights, for the sake of the children, who deserve NOTHING less than equality.

Our leaders must be held accountable to lead by example, embrace diversity and equality for ALL people and ALL families. ALL families must be valued, and ALL children must have the right to have both their parents legally recognized. NO child deserves less and NO child should be left behind.
Freedom to Marry salutes Maria Gatto as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: Kim Gandy

Kim Gandy is an American feminist and was the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 2001 until 2009. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, the seat of Lincoln Parish, where she earned a BA in mathematics.

Having taken a job with AT&T, Gandy became outraged that the firm required her husband's permission for employee benefits. She joined Louisiana NOW in 1973 and devoted the next several years to the campaign that overturned the state's Head and Master law, which gave husbands unilateral control over all property jointly owned by a married couple. She was divorced, resumed her maiden name, and inspired by her activism in NOW, studied law at Loyola University New Orleans.
Gandy went on to serve as a senior assistant District Attorney in New Orleans, and later opened a private trial practice, litigating countless cases seeking fair treatment for women. She served as president of Louisiana NOW from 1979 through 1981, national secretary of NOW from 1987 to 1991, and executive vice president of NOW from 1991 to 2001. She was elected national NOW president in 2001 and re-elected to a second term in 2005. To learn more: [Link]

On November 26, 2003, Kim Gandy was quoted on the National Organization for Women website as saying:

The so-called Federal Marriage Amendment is a transparent election-year ploy to gain political profit by exploiting bigotry and hate. The Constitution should be amended to extend rights to everyone and guarantee equal treatment, and should not be marred by institutionalizing discrimination.

Our Constitution is about expanding and defining rights and liberties, not limiting them. Lawmakers who support a sweeping federal mandate to keep same-sex couples from the legal rights inherent in civil marriage are pandering to prejudice. This stems from the same narrow-minded and bigoted perspective that fueled miscegenation laws. In the 1960's, the civil rights movement fought for interracial couples to have marriage rights--and won. We're fighting for marriage rights again, this time for same-sex couples. We'll win this struggle too. [Link]

Freedom to Marry salutes Kim Gandy as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: Michael Eric Dyson

Named by Essence magazine as one of the 50 most inspiring African Americans, the Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is the author of the 2004 NAACP Image Award winner for outstanding nonfiction literary work, "Why I Love Black Women" and the national best-seller, "Open Mike: Reflections on Philosophy, Race, Sex, Culture and Religion." He is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. An in-demand lecturer, ordained Baptist minister, and frequent guest on television talk shows, Dyson has been described by the Washington Post as a "superstar professor... who plies his craft at the crossroads of public policy, celebrity, and academia." He is the author of eleven books, including his latest, "Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?"

On February 26, 2004, in response to President Bush pushing for a constitutional amendment banning marriages between same-sex couples, Michael Eric Dyson weighed in on the Tavis Smiley radio show on NPR saying:

The ability to marry whomever one chooses is a civil rights issue, one not best left to high-minded moralists. Our feathers needn't be ruffled by gays and lesbians who seek to tie the knot of matrimony. In fact, heterosexual Christians should applaud the desire of gays and lesbians to seal their sexual and spiritual solidarity with a nod to traditional family values. Now mind you, those traditional family values have led to destructive consequences in many homes, but the desire of gays and lesbians to sign up has given me fresh hope that it needn't be so. [Link]
Freedom to Marry salutes the Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: Dakota Fine

Dakota Fine, based in Washington, DC, is the photo editor and chief photographer for the Brightest Young Things website. In addition to his photography business, Dakota is also employed by the Human Rights Campaign in the division of Public Education and Outreach. As a Fellow to the Family Project, Dakota is currently managing the All Children—All Families Campaign, which is HRC's effort to build better adoption practices in and for the GLBT community.

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Voice for Equality: Chris Swope

Chris Swope is the current City Clerk for Lansing, Michigan and former Executive Director of Michigan Equality. Prior to his successful election as City Clerk in 2005, Swope already had an impressive resume of public service in various Michigan state and local offices. Swope has served as the Ingham County Commissioner, a policy analyst for the Michigan Senate, and a benefits administrator for the Michigan House of Representatives. In 2001, Chris was elected Ingham County Commissioner, a position he would be reelected to twice before stepping down to become city clerk.

Swope sits on various government boards including the Police/Community Relations Board and the Michigan Association of Counties Environmental & Regulatory Affairs Committee. He has also served on the boards of several state organizations that advance the rights of gay Michigan residents. Swope is the past President of the Lansing Association for Human Rights and has sat on the Board of the Lansing Branch American Civil Liberties Union.

Swope served two years as the Executive Director of Michigan Equality, the state marriage equality organization, during the state campaign to ban marriage equality in Michigan.

Freedom to Marry salutes City Clerk Chris Swope as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: Ernesto Scorsone

Ernesto Scorsone is a Kentucky politician who has served in various state offices. He received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Kentucky. In 1984, Scorsone was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives. After six terms in the Kentucky House, Scorsone was elected by a wide margin to the State Senate in 1996. Ernesto was reelected to the Senate in 2000 and 2004. In 2008, Ernesto was elected to a six-year term on the Fayette County Circuit Court.

In 1998, Scorsone lost a close race for the 6th seat of the U.S. House of Representatives, which would have made him one of the first gay federal elected officials. Scorsone is the first and as of 2009 only gay official ever to have served the state of Kentucky. He sits on the boards of the HIV/AIDS Legal Project of Kentucky, the Fayette County Bar Association, and the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County.

Senator Scorsone was a vocal critic of the amendment passed by the state legislature that banned same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. Here you can see a video clip of him speaking out against the amendment on the floor of the Kentucky Statehouse:

Freedom to Marry salutes Judge Ernesto Scorsone as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: Eric Lee

Rev. Eric Lee is president/CEO of the Los Angeles chapter of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the 50-year-old civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is also Chairman/President of the California Christian Leadership Conference, the parent organization for seven California SCLC Chapters.

President of the local SCLC chapter for two years, in 2008, Rev. Less became an outspoken advocate of the freedom to marry by gay couples during the campaign against Proposition 8, an amendment to the state Constitution that banned marriages by same-sex couples. A message from Rev. Lee about his views on marriage is posted on the website for the group Unite the Fight: "Marriage equality is a civil rights issue. Anytime one group of people is denied the rights another group of people enjoy, it is fundamentally a denial of civil rights."

He has a B.S. in Political Economies of Industrial Societies from U.C. Berkeley, and a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Azusa Pacific University. Rev. Lee is affiliated with the Black Business Association, Recycling Black Dollars, 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Rev. Lee has been married 17 years and has three children.


Freedom to Marry salutes Eric Lee as a Voice for Equality, in the tradition of Coretta Scott King!

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Voice for Equality: Sam Thoron

Sam Thoron has a rich history of dedication to the GLBT community. A retired general commercial insurance broker, Sam is a member of the Equality for All Statewide Campaign Committee, which was established to counter attempts to imbed anti-gay discrimination into the California State Constitution. He has served for many years on the PFLAG National Board, the Board of Directors of Marriage Equality USA, and on Freedom to Marry's own Steering Committee. To learn more: [Link]

Freedom to Marry salutes Sam Thoron for his work on our Steering Committee and as a Voice for Equality!

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