Groups Launch Campaign Urging Senator Reed to Cosponsor Respect for Marriage Act

9/27/2011

Groups Launch Campaign Urging Senator Reed to Cosponsor

Respect for Marriage Act

 

Press Contacts:
Jackie Yodashkin, Freedom to Marry, jackie@freedomtomarry.org, 917-620-4502

Ana Beatriz Cholo, Courage Campaign, anabeatriz@couragecampaign.org, 312-927-4845 

Ray Sullivan, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, rsullivan@marriageequalityri.org, 401-227-0259

Kate Brock, Ocean State Action, kate@oceanstateaction.org, 617-835-4875

(Providence, RI, September 27, 2011)–Today, following the successful campaign in Maryland last month by Freedom to Marry, Courage Campaign and Equality Maryland to get Senator Barbara Mikulski to support the Respect for Marriage Act, Freedom to Marry and Courage Campaign announced a partnership with Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Ocean State Action to launch a similar campaign urging Senator Jack Reed to sign on as a cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that will overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

"DOMA hurts loving, committed couples and their families across Rhode Island and across the nation," said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry.  "We are reaching out to Rhode Islanders to make sure that Senator Reed hears from his constituents who want him to join in support of the Respect for Marriage Act."

The online campaign by the four groups will collect signatures from a variety of constituents across Rhode Island.  Currently, Rhode Island honors the marriages of same-sex couples married out of state, but those couples are still harmed by federal marriage discrimination under DOMA. The state does not presently allow Rhode Island same-sex couples to marry within the state. Reed is the only member of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation who has yet to cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act. Representative Jim Langevin joined Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative David Ciciline in cosponsoring the bill nearly two weeks ago.

“As a distinguished military veteran and West Point graduate, we hope that Sen. Reed will recognize the importance of full equality for all Americans, particularly in this post ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ world,” said Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of the Courage Campaign, a national grassroots, progressive online organization. “We ask that Reed join his colleague Senator Whitehouse and the majority of American people in calling for the repeal of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.“

The signatories signed onto a letter that reads:

We write on behalf of thousands of Rhode Island families who are presently denied critical protections and recognition under the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”, or DOMA. Married same-sex couples are treated as legal strangers in the eyes of the federal government because of DOMA and excluded from the 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/SenatorReedLetter

As part of the campaign, MERI is releasing a video of Deb Tevyaw, the widow of Pat Baker, a Rhode Island corrections officer and marriage activist who passed away in August from lung cancer.  During the last months of her life, Baker fought to ensure that her widow, whom she had legally married in Massachusetts, would have access to Social Security survivor benefits and other protections that come with federal recognition of a marriage currently denied under DOMA.

"Pat and Deb's story is a critical reminder of the fact that love really does make a family. All Rhode Islanders deserve equal rights, protection and recognition under the law and we are hopeful that Sen. Reed will recognize that, and join the other members of our state's Congressional delegation in supporting this important civil rights bill,” said Ray Sullivan, Campaign Director at Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

"Deb and Pat's story illustrates the legal and economic protections that same-sex couples and their families are denied here in Rhode Island. DOMA was a bad idea when it was enacted in 1996 and its a bad idea today,” said Kate Brock, Executive Director of Ocean State Action. “It's time the Federal Government rectify these injustices and end this government sponsored discrimination by repealing DOMA now." 

The campaign will run through next week, and then representatives of the groups will deliver the petition signatures to Senator Reed’s office.

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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.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) is the only grassroots organization in Rhode Island whose mission is solely to achieve LGBTQI equality through policy change and works to secure equal marriage rights for all Rhode Island couples, regardless of sexual orientation or identity.

Ocean State Action is a coalition of community groups, environmental organizations, professional associations, and labor unions who have been fighting for social and economic justice for over two decades.