After Windsor: Marriage Stories

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

June 26, 2014 marks the 1-year anniversary of the Windsor decision that struck down the federal Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since that historic decision six more states have gained marriage equality, including Pennsylvania, bringing the country-wide tally to 19! Here are just a few couples who have taken advantage of their right to get married since DOMA was overturned:

Kristin Keith, Catherine Hennessy

Kristin Keith (left) and Catherine Hennessy

Catherine Hennessy and Kristin Keith

After meeting at a farewell party for mutual friends, Catherine and Kristin never said goodbye to one another. The two women have been together for 11 years and are excited, yet still shocked they were able to get married today. Until now only their inner circle has recognized their relationship but today, all of Pennsylvania does.

line

John Krafty, Clayton

John and Clayton Krafty

Clayton and John Krafty

My husband Clayton and I got married on June 21, 2009 in PA. We had a ceremony complete with string quartet, DJ, bridal party of 12 etc. we did this so our friends and family could share in the joy when we were legally married in CT one month earlier. We were thrilled to high heavens when DOMA was killed last year and even more so last month when our marriage was recognized by our home state of PA.

line

Justin Jain, Adam Woods

Justin Jain (right) and Adam Woods

Justin Jain and Adam Woods

Nine years together, now one day married. After Justin and Jain were together for eight years they decided to have a ceremony for their family and friends, to show their love for one another. Today they married to make it official in the eyes of their home state that they love. Moving forward the couples hopes to adopt children and grow their family.

line

Michelle Mamo, Christy Santos

Michelle Mamo and Christy Santos

Michelle Mamo and Christy Santos

Christy and I were married April 26, 2014 twelve years to the date of our commitment ceremony! We decided on 6/27/13 to get married in DE because it wasn’t legal in PA. Three weeks after the wedding PA ruling came down and now we are happily married in our home state!!!

line

Derek Finn, Eddie Chang

Derek Finn and Eddie Chang (left)

Derek Finn and Eddie Chang

During a Japanese language class at the University of Pennsylvania, Derek and Eddie met and fell in love. They feel getting married today after twelve years together, brings legitimacy, safety and security to their lives and makes it just a little less stressful to be together. They plan to buy a house big enough for their two dogs and hopefully a few babies.

line

Nick Kurek‎, Jason Smith

Nick Kurek‎ and Jason Smith

Nick Kurek‎ and Jason Smith

This is myself and partner Jason right after leaving the Lehigh County Courthouse June 9, 2014 with our Marriage License! Jason and I have been together 7 years this September, and celebrated our commitment ceremony to each other with tons of friends and family present on December 17, 2011. Since we have done the “big wedding bash” already, our original minister has volunteered to officiate for us as we have a small, intimate ceremony celebrating not only our permanent bond to each other, but recognizing this enormous milestone in history. One Love!

line

Oscar Cabrera, Chris DiCapha

Oscar Cabrera and Chris DiCapha

Oscar Cabrera and Chris DiCapha

Today Oscar and Chris no longer feel like second class citizens in their own state because today they were able to marry after 18 years. Finally being recognized as a couple makes their family unit feel more real and they say there is no going back now. They plan to honeymoon in Nicaragua and come back to the life they’ve already been building together for so long.

line

Peg Welch

Delma and Peg Welch

Delma and Peg Welch

Delma and I married each other three times. The first time in Washington DC in 1993 at the March on Washington, the second time (legally) in Canada in 2004, and the third time on July 31, 2013, after obtaining our marriage license from the Montgomery County, PA register of wills office. We are delighted that our marriage is legal in PA.

line

Sue Frantz

Sue and Sammi Frantz

Sue and Sammi Frantz

May 16th 2014, my wife an I got married in Atlantic City NJ and May17th we had a commitment ceremony for family. That following Wednesday Pa became legal. Now we are happily married in our own state!!!

line

Colleen R Ott, Michelle Crawford-Ott

Colleen and Michelle Crawford-Ott

Colleen R. Ott and Michelle Crawford-Ott

On June 21, 2014 Michelle Crawford-Ott and I, Colleen R. Ott, got married at St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, we had been planning since Attorney General Kathleen Kane stirred up the PA Marriage Equality pot, by not defending the Gay Marriage Ban, and noted that it was “wholly unconstitutional,” when she spoke at the National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia, PA. my home town. As a Philadelphia Summit LGBTQ member I knew that was the start of many rallies, and that we needed to take action. Heck, my Church recognized it before the state of PA. So we set a date, the date had to be after the hearing with the ACLU and the couples vs the State Ban of PA. The day after we got our Marriage Certificate, and we went forth with our date. The fight is not over in PA, we now need to ECHO OUR VOICES for FULL FEDERAL MARRIAGE EQUALITY. Amen!!

line

If you’re interested in sharing your marriage story with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please submit a photo and a short story to our Facebook page.

BenBen Bowens is a social and digital media enthusiast. Before joining the ACLU of Pennsylvania as the Communications Associate, he served as the Digital Media Producer for CBS3/KYW-TV, where he covered the 2008 election and launched the station’s social media presence.

Our Wildest Dreams

Julie Lobur and her wife Marla Cattermole, attend the #DecisionDayPA rally in Harrisburg (credit: Dani Fresh)

Julie Lobur and her wife Marla Cattermole (credit: Dani Fresh)

On July 9, 2013, Julie Lobur and her wife Marla Cattermole, along with 10 other same-sex couples, a widow, and two children of a same-sex couple, sued for the freedom to marry in Pennsylvania and for recognition of out-of-state marriages for same-sex couples. On May 20, 2014, they won. Read more about the lawsuit at aclupa.org/marriage.

By Julie Lobur

I’ve simply been walking on air since Judge Jones’s decision nullifying Pennsylvania’s DOMA. Little in this world meant more to Marla and me than the legitimization of our relationship. For 28 years, we fought for marriage equality. We wrote checks, went to protests, and harangued anyone who would listen. On May 20, our dreams came true with seemingly surreal abruptness.

Until recently, many of us never thought we would see this day come in Pennsylvania. When I officially came out 41 years ago, it was still illegal to be gay in Pennsylvania (under penalty of 5 years in prison!). Of course, coming “out” in those days meant only identifying oneself to the gay community. The thought of public exposure of one’s sexual orientation terrified most of us.

In the 1970s, Harrisburg’s gay community was hidden underground. We lurked in the shadows equally fearful of the gay bashers and the police—sometimes one and the same. Closeted professionals who passed themselves off for straight lived in continual fear of blackmail. People who couldn’t “pass” for straight were grateful to be able to hang onto any job long enough to pay a few bills. We were relegated to gay ghettos where “respectable” people would never set foot. (Some of these same neighborhoods became chic gayborhoods where “respectable” people now pay a fortune to live.)

Julie Lobur and her wife Marla Cattermole, attend the #DecisionDayPA rally in Harrisburg (credit: Dani Fresh)

Julie Lobur and her wife Marla Cattermole, attend the #DecisionDayPA rally in Harrisburg (credit: Dani Fresh)

In hindsight, one might say that we were too quick to accept our second-class status. But mindsets are difficult to break. At our marriage ceremony decades later, I nearly had a panic attack when after saying our vows, the judge naturally instructed me to kiss Marla. My mind raced, “Gasp! Kiss Marla? In front of a judge??? Won’t I get in trouble? Is this a set up?” I somehow regained my composure before anyone noticed. That was when I fully realized how far we had come.

The life we have now is certainly beyond anything in my wildest dreams in 1973. It is a life that we are happy to see our young people take for granted. But I will be indebted to my dying day for all of the hard work, persistence, and bravery on the part of those who made it happen. Without the contributions of thousands of supporters and sympathetic friends, none of us would have seen justice. Every little bit helped.

On the Right Side of History: October 1, 1996

By Andy Hoover, Legislative Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Rainbow Flag

A rainbow flag is raised outside of city hall in Philadelphia. (credit: Ben Bowens)

At the suggestion of a colleague, I pulled up the General Assembly’s archives to look at the votes and the journals from the legislature’s passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

After the events of the past week, it was quite a read. The state Senate passed DOMA on October 1, 1996, by a vote of 43-5. The five no votes are all names that are familiar to Pennsylvania politicos- Democrats Vincent Hughes, who is now the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Vincent Fumo, who retired several years ago after legal troubles; Hardy Williams, who passed in 2010 and whose son, Anthony, now serves in the Senate; Allyson Schwartz, who serves in Congress and ran for governor this year; and Republican Dave Heckler, who later became a judge and is now the district attorney of Bucks County.

Reading the floor debate, which is available here, is fascinating. Here are some choice quotes:

“Our country was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all. It is our responsibility, in fact our obligation, as elected officials to assure a society that prohibits discrimination against any class of people. It is wrong to express words of tolerance and to condemn bigotry only when it is easy and safe, only when it is in the abstract. Well, today we are faced with a choice to condemn discrimination, to end a minority group’s isolation, and to build understanding. It should not be so hard. And I ask each of my colleagues not to waste this opportunity and instead to stand up for understanding, to stand up for acceptance, to stand up for fairness, and to vote against…this legislation.”
— Senator Allyson Schwartz

 

“I am of the belief that government has no place in the bedroom, and I do not know why we have to rush to judgment on this issue right now. I recognize it as an inflammatory issue, it is one that drives some people crazy, but my plea is that these people are human beings, too, and have the right to their beliefs and the exercise of their beliefs the same as the majority of people do. They present no threat to society. In fact, they complement society and assist society by being honest, law-abiding individuals.

 

“…I do not kid myself. I know the vote today will probably be overwhelming, the same way the vote in a southern legislature years ago would have been overwhelming in discriminating against black minorities. That does not make the vote right. It is still wrong. It is no business of ours to interfere in the lives of others, in the most private and intimate way, and it is shameful that we are doing this(.)”
–Senator Vincent Fumo

Six days later, on October 7, the House passed the bill with just 13 members voting no. We’ll have a follow up post to recognize those representatives.

On October 16, Governor Ridge signed the bill and it became Act 124 of 1996.

And on May 20, 2014, Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act was swept into the ash heap of history.

On #DecisionDayPA: A letter from Vic Walczak

Vic Walczak

Vic Walczak

Dear ACLU Supporter,

I have been blessed to be a part of some pretty historic cases, whether it’s intelligent design creationism, Hazleton’s immigration fiasco, or, most recently, knocking out voter ID. But our marriage case on behalf of 25 Pennsylvanians holds a special place for me.

I was at the Pittsburgh celebration on the night of the decision with several of our clients and their children when the magnitude of what we had achieved began to hit home. People I didn’t know were hugging me, wetting my suit with their tears as they thanked me for transforming their lives. I don’t ever recall seeing so much unabashed joy, open affection, and excitement created by one of our victories.

All ACLU cases involve vital rights, but it hit me just how life-defining this case is for so many people. It is everyday existence. This decision affirms people for who they are and establishes gay men and lesbians as equal citizens. Those who fall in love with a person of the same sex now have the same rights.

Who would have thought that in less than a year we would make Pennsylvania number 19 for freedom-to-marry states? It’s amazing and just plain beautiful!

The ACLU of Pennsylvania could not have achieved this win, or any of our other victories, without the help of our supporters.

If you’re not a member, please consider joining the ACLU today.

Thank you for your unwavering faith in the ACLU! Let there be more love in the world. And let wedding bells ring!

Sincerely,

Witold ‘Vic’ Walczak, Esq.
Legal Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania

PS – What some of you may not know is that I’m a dancing legend. Bad dancing legend 🙂

Vic Walczak dancing

Vic dancing on stage at the #DecisionDayPA rally in Pittsburgh (credit: John Altdorfer)

Whitewood v. Wolf – A Case for the Freedom to Marry

By Ben Bowens & Molly Tack-Hooper, ACLU of Pennsylvania

We recommend viewing this Prezi presentation in full screen. After it loads, you can use your keyboard arrows to scroll through the presentation. At anytime, you can click and move around the presentation without altering any of the content.

For more information about the case and FAQs, please visit aclupa.org/whitewood