Groups Deliver Over 2,000 Signatures Urging Sen. Casey to Co-Sponsor Respect for Marriage Act

11/2/2011

Press Contacts:
Jackie Yodashkin, Freedom to Marry, jackie@freedomtomarry.org, 917-620-4502
Ted Martin, Equality Pennsylvania, themartin@equalitypa.org, 717-319-5210
Ana Beatriz Cholo, Courage Campaign, anabeatriz@couragecampaign.org, 312-927-4845 


(Harrisburg, PA, November 2, 2011) – Today, Freedom to Marry, Courage Campaign, and Equality Pennsylvania will present Senator Robert Casey with a petition signed by 2,400 Pennsylvania residents urging him to join his fellow Democrats in signing onto the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The campaign follows the successful effort in Maryland by Freedom to Marry, Courage Campaign, and Equality Maryland to get Senator Barbara Mikulski to sign on as a co-sponsor of the landmark bill.

“Fair-minded citizens across the state of Pennsylvania have spoken out and asked Senator Casey to support the repeal of the discriminatory so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Gay and lesbian couples and their families are harmed every day by a lack of access to marriage and by a law that does not acknowledge their love and devotion to one another,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry. “We hope that Senator Casey will demonstrate his commitment to protecting all families and join us in repealing DOMA.”

The signatures were collected through an online campaign by the three groups. They represent a variety of constituents from across Pennsylvania, where more than 22,000 same-sex couples reside, many of whom are legally married and 20% of whom are raising children. Yet these couples all lack federal protections and benefits as a result of DOMA. Senator Casey has previously co-sponsored many bills that would ensure fairness and justice for gay and lesbian people, including the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and most recently the law that repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which prohibited gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the military.

"Senator Casey is a mensch," said Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of the Courage Campaign, a progressive, online grassroots organization with more than 700,000 members around the country. "He cares deeply about the people of his state and this nation. I know and trust him, which means I know he'll stand on the side of equality for all, which in this case means ending the unfair, un-American Defense of Marriage Act. With the mark-up pending in the Judiciary Committee, this is the moment we need him most."

The letters will be delivered personally in Washington, DC and Harrisburg to members of the Senator’s staff on Wednesday by each of the organizations. York residents Greg and Chuck King will accompany Equality PA Executive Director Ted Martin to the Harrisburg meeting. The Kings were married in Connecticut two years ago and are Pennsylvania residents. DOMA prevents their marriage from being recognized by the federal government. Freedom to Marry’s Federal Director Jo Deutsch will deliver signatures to Senator Casey’s Washington, DC office.

“Each day, Pennsylvanians from all walks of life, faiths and locales are coming to the conclusion that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is just plain wrong. They are seeing it for what it is -- a willful and spiteful denigration of the shared lives of thousands of committed couples,” said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania. “Equality Pennsylvania asks Senator Casey to seize this real opportunity to help end this shameful chapter in American history by co-sponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act.  Chances like this, to correct such blatant acts of inequality, are rare, and we ask the Senator to understand the sheer importance of this moment and simply do the right thing.”

The signatories signed onto a letter that reads:
 
We write on behalf of thousands of Pennsylvania families who are presently denied critical protections and recognition under the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” or DOMA. As you know, hundreds of Pennsylvania same-sex couples are legally married out of state.  However, these married same-sex couples are treated as legal strangers in the eyes of the federal government because of DOMA and excluded from more than 1,100 federal laws in which marital status is a factor, including Social Security, immigration, and family and medical leave.
 
For the full text of the letter, click here: http://freedomtomarry.org/SenatorCaseyLetter.  

Freedom to Marry and Courage Campaign have been working with other statewide groups in similar efforts as part of a federal campaign to increase the number of sponsors in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the Respect for Marriage Act. The organizations celebrated a significant victory in September after Senator Mikulski of Maryland signed on as a co-sponsor of the Act following a campaign that garnered a petition with 3,000 signatures. There are now a record number of supporters in both the House, where the bill has 130 co-sponsors, and in the Senate with 30 co-sponsors, including every Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (The bill was introduced in March with 108 co-sponsors in the House and 18 co-sponsors in the Senate.) Currently, the groups are working on another campaign that aims for Senator Reed of Rhode Island to announce his support as well.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin a mark up of the Respect for Marriage Act on Thursday, November 3. Just this week, Representatives Sandy Levin (D-MI) and Robert Andrews (D-NJ) added their names to the list of co-sponsors in the House.

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Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

Courage Campaign is a multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to work for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country.

Equality Pennsylvania supports the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and our mission is to be the preeminent LGBT advocacy organization for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and work collaboratively to establish a comprehensive network of individuals and organizations united in securing equal rights for the LGBT community.