Groups Launch “Tell Casey to Commit” Campaign to Urge DOMA Repeal

11/30/2011

Press Contacts:
Angela Dallara, Freedom to Marry, angela@freedomtomarry.org, 646-430-3925
Ted Martin, Equality Pennsylvania, themartin@equalitypa.org, 717-319-5210
Ana Beatriz Cholo, Courage Campaign, anabeatriz@couragecampaign.org, 312-927-4845 

(Harrisburg, PA, November 30, 2011) – Today Freedom to Marry, Courage Campaign, and Equality Pennsylvania launched the next phase of their campaign urging Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania to cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The campaign, called “Tell Casey to Commit,” includes couples and families visiting Senator Casey’s offices to talk face-to-face about why they want his support to repeal DOMA.

“Loving, committed gay and lesbian couples in Pennsylvania have reached out to Senator Casey diligently throughout the past month, but he has yet to commit to supporting the Respect for Marriage Act,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry. “Our hope is that by having the opportunity to meet with constituent families who are harmed every day without federal recognition of their marriage, Senator Casey will add his name to the list of cosponsors of the much needed Respect for Marriage Act.”

Beginning today, every Wednesday a gay or lesbian couple harmed by DOMA, or a loved one close to them, will visit Senator Casey’s staff and tell their personal story. They will then ask if Senator Casey has made a decision about the legislation and leave him with a letter and framed picture of their family. Afterwards, the groups will use multimedia to share the experiences of the visitors on the internet in order to increase public awareness and education about the Respect for Marriage Act.

“Sen. Casey is the kind of leader who does something when his constituents are treated as second-class,” said Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of the Courage Campaign, a 750,000 member online, grassroots organization dedicated to fighting for progressive issues. “That's why I'm confident that it's only a matter of time before he supports the Respect for Marriage Act. Seeing the faces and hearing the stories of constituents who are treated as second class citizens can push someone to do what's already in their heart. That's what we're trying to do with our new campaign.”

Earlier this month, the groups collected and delivered over 2,400 signatures from state residents asking Senator Casey to support the legislation. The upcoming visits are intended to supplement the petition by giving the Senator and his staff a more intimate understanding of how DOMA harms Pennsylvania constituents, including more than 22,000 same-sex couples who reside in the state—many of whom are legally married and 20% of whom are raising children.

“Equality PA believes in the power of personal stories and that is why we have chosen to play a part in this unique initiative to encourage Senator Casey to cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act,” explained Equality PA Executive Director Ted Martin. “The Tell Casey to Commit Campaign will bring the Senator face-to-face with the thousands of Pennsylvanians who have been unfairly asked to live with the disrespect, iniquity and insult heaped upon them by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.  These visits won't be to discuss statistics, instead they will put real faces to real lives and give meaning to the simple fact that every relationship deserves to exist with dignity.”

Freedom to Marry and Courage Campaign have worked 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 cosponsor 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 133 sponsors, and in the Senate with 31 sponsors, including every Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voted recently to advance the Respect for Marriage Act to the full Senate. Currently, the groups are working on other campaigns that aim for Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine to announce their support as well.

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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.