Marriage matters to Diane Polson and Dawn Plummer.
They have been together for 13 years, but the state will not allow them to marry. Same-sex marriage is legal in 16 states and Washington, D.C., but Pennsylvania is not one of them.
While a challenge to Pennsylvania’s marriage law makes its way through the courts, the ACLU launched its Why Marriage Matters campaign Wednesday.
Polson and Plummer are now plaintiffs in the ACLU’s lawsuit, a decision sparked by their 5-year-old son Elijah.
“He thought that it was unfair that we weren’t able to get married, and when we were talking about what we should do about it, he said ‘Well maybe we should go to the lawmakers’ house,’” Polson said. “And so when the opportunity came to be a part of the lawsuit, we jumped on it and thought it was something that our family wanted to be a part of.”
Campaign Manager Melissa Morris said the campaign will continue as long as the lawsuit is moving forward.
“Why Marriage Matters Pennsylvania is a public education campaign aimed at building support for the freedom to marry for same sex couples throughout Pennsylvania,” Morris said. “The campaign is designed to increase support for same-sex marriage by beginning a dialogue with Pennsylvania residents about why marriage is important to same sex couples and their families.”
According to Morris, ACLU will be working statewide with local and regional organizations including faith communities, businesses and community leaders to create messaging and training about why marriage is important to all couples.
She said they hope it will provoke conversations about how the freedom to marry will benefit the commonwealth.
Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, an endorser of the campaign, said he doesn’t want Pennsylvania to be the 50th state to understand that rights should be given to everyone equally.
“I don’t want us to be looked back on like we look back on the south in the civil rights movement,” Peduto said. “I want Pennsylvania to be at the forefront of understanding that if we provide the rights of a license to one, we are obligated to provide that same right to all.”
Marcie Eberhart, American Eagle Outfitters Foundation Director, said the fact that Pennsylvania has not allowed same sex couples to marry is an economic issue.
“When marriage equality is not something that happens in Pennsylvania, but happens in cities and states like New York and California it’s often hard to lure employees, to lure the talent that we need to come to Pittsburgh to work for our company,” Eberhart said.
American Eagle’s CEO Robert Hanson married his partner of 21 years in California last September.
The Pennsylvania marriage equality lawsuit is in the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.
Judge John Jones rejected a motion by the state to dismiss the suit in November.