Friday, November 8, 2013

Three Pennsylvania Couples Legally Marry During Easton Equality Rally--in NJ

By Christina Georgiou

Marcus Laurence and Bill Mauro, Jerry Schmidt and Chuck Woodbury, and
Jennifer and Maryann Kelley, all Pennsylvania residents, were legally
married in Phillipsburg, New Jersey Thursday evening after a rally
and march that began in Easton advocating for marriage equality.
Click on any photo for a full-size view.
On the same day the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), offering federal protection from workplace discrimination for sexual orientation, more than 100 people gathered in Easton's Centre Square to support marriage equality in Pennsylvania and march over the bridge to Phillipsburg, NJ to witness three same-sex couple be legally wed.

After the couples took their vows and exchanged rings, cheer and applause erupted from the crowd.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in New Jersey for just over two weeks, since October 21.

"We're here where the Declaration of Independence was read," said rally organizer Adrian Shanker, president of Equality PA, on Centre Square before the march. "You can see New Jersey from here."

Easton Mayor Sal Panto speaks in favor of equal rights for
all during the rally for marriage equality on Centre Square
Thursday evening, while rally organizer Adrian Shanker,
to his right, holds the megaphone.
Easton is known for its long history of diversity, and it's one of about two dozen  Pennsylvania municipalities that grants benefits for same-sex partners of its municipal employees, as well as having passed anti-discrimination legislation.

Thirty state representatives and 22 mayors support marriage equality, Shanker said.

"If Senator Toomey can vote for a bill that says you can't discriminate in employment against someone for being gay, then surely Democrats can vote for marriage equality," he added.

Three Easton elected officials attended the rally in support of marriage equality--Mayor Sal Panto, Councilwoman El Warner, and Councilman Jeff Warren.

Panto said changing the law happens at the state level, but local municipalities need to stand behind the change.

"As local politicians, we could say that it's not our job, but...this is where change has to start, at the local level," he said.

"Last week a reporter asked me what the cost of same-sex benefits were to the city, and I said 'Nothing,'" he added. "But it's not just dollars, it's what's right. Today we stand for marriage equality because it's the right thing to do. Equal rights is for all of the people, not just some of the people."

Easton Councilwoman El Warner at
the rally and march advocating marriage
equality held in the city's Centre Square
Thursday evening.

For Warner, who is open about her sexual orientation, the issue is personal.

She said having to cross the bridge to New Jersey to get married is "absurd", and noted that 2014 elections are "just around the corner."

Warner urged that voters vote out Governor Tom Corbett and others up for election that oppose equality so "we can finally bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century."

Michele Kessler, secretary-treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, recently went to Maryland to legally marry her partner.

"Let's walk across that bridge and show the hypocrisy of this state," she said.

But it's not just the state that refused to treat same-sex couples fairly, said Liz Bradbury, executive director for the Pennsylvania Diversity Network. She criticized St. Luke's Health Network for going back on a promise to grant benefits to same-sex partners, despite previously making a promise to do so.

Marchers make their way down Easton's Northampton Street Thursday
evening on the way to Phillipsburg NJ to witness the legal marriage
of three same-sex couples.

"Their spokesperson told me they would do the right thing," she said, adding that the health organization now says it won't grant the benefits until the law requires it.

"Who is it at St. Luke's that is making the decision to make them the most discriminating health network in the Lehigh Valley? How can you trust an institution that is supposed to heal people if they won't grant equal benefits to an employee?" she asked.

But even if Pennsylvania state law doesn't afford equal rights, committed same-sex couples that want to wed should still get legally married in another state for the federal tax benefits and protections, Shanker said.

For two of the couples that got married in New Jersey Thursday evening, that was the primary reason, in addition to love and commitment, for the legally recognized ceremony.

Marcus Laurence and Bill Mauro, Jerry Schmidt and
Chuck Woodbury, and Jennifer and Maryann
Kelley, all Pennsylvania residents, at the beginning of
their wedding ceremonies in Phillipsburg, NJ
Thursday evening.
Small business owners Jerry Schmidt and Chuck Woodbury of Kunkletown had a civil union in Vermont 13 years ago, but until they were married Thursday evening, their union was not legally recognized. They have been together for 26 years.

For Marcus Laurence and Bill Mauro of Franconia, together for eight and a half years, the wedding was their first, but they planned a low-key celebration together afterwards with dinner and drinks at River Grille back in Easton.

Allentown residents Jennifer and Maryann Kelley said they took part in the ceremony specifically to have their union legally recognized.

Maryann and Jennifer Kelley pose for a photo after
being legally wedded Thursday evening with Rev. Beth Goudy
of the  Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley.
and one of their young daughters.
"There's joy in the celebration, but honestly, we were married nine and a half years ago," Jennifer Kelley said. "This was about taking care of our family. That's my thrill."

The Kelleys are parents to three young children.
 They said they'd probably still celebrate their new legal status later in the evening though.

"Maybe we'll crack open a bottle of wine," Jennifer Kelley said.

"After we put the kids to bed," Maryann Kelly added.

Marcus Laurence and Bill Mauro talk
with a television reporter Thursday evening
after the ceremony.


  1. Thanks for the excellent report. Had to be at a meeting and couldn't attend.

  2. Wonderful article! My husband Tim Hare and I thank you so much!

  3. Yes, thank you for the report. I was there early, but had to leave before the march for another meeting.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. From GratitudeAlphabetByGratefulGeorge, November 9, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    An enchanting evening in Easton & Phillipsburg (where my husband Earl and I met 37 years ago).

    "We can actually see Marriage Equality in New Jersey from our Pennsylprejudice porch!” ~ Revs. Tim & Earl, two husbands in Love since 1976

    A choice of heterosexual-supremacist faithstyles must not hijack our American democracy. Want an unAmerican theocracy? Move to Iran, N. Korea or the Vatican!

    (promotional links removed)