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PA Equality Leader Takes A Stand -- Via Social Media

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Jul 16, 2013

Marion Leary has some experience as an organizer who uses social media to promote awareness and raise funds. Leary is the president, and the founder, of Sink or Swim Philadelphia, which she describes as a "social media project that uses medical crowdfunding to help raise money for people who are uninsured or underinsured pay for medical expenses" -- sort of a grassroots social safety net in an age when the federal government is in full retreat from such programs.

Leary also has some experience as a member of a household headed by a same-sex couple, namely, herself and her life partner, with whom she celebrated a commitment ceremony a decade ago. Setting her sights on marriage equality at home as state after state embraces full family parity, the Pennsylvania resident launched a new effort, #CommonwealthEquality.

The new campaign, Leary said in a press release, is geared "to show solidarity, support and quite frankly some outrage that this is still even an issue!"

The idea is simple: Leary is looking for GLBT families and their allies and supporters to create messages calling for acceptance and full family equality before the law. She encourages those interested in participating to be photographed with their families and friends, messages front and center, and then to send the images in so they can be featured in what Leary calls "a social media photo campaign/visual protest."

"I came to organize this social media campaign because I wanted to do something to show support for marriage equality in the state," Leary told EDGE.

"With Rep Brian Sims introducing the marriage bill in Pennsylvania and then Attorney General Kane announcing that she would not defend Pennsylvania's version of DOMA, it just seemed like the right time to start a local statewide effort. My partner and I had our commitment ceremony almost 10 years ago; after the Supreme Court ruling we decided that on our 10th anniversary (which will be Oct. 4th of this year) we would go to Delaware and get "legally" married, though that still did not really help us on a state level since we live and raise our child in Pennsylvania."

So Leary set out to do something about it. Social media, the great connective tissue of our age, already being something of a specialty for her, that was the avenue she chose for this new push for full-fledged, rather than second-class, citizenship. The idea of putting the faces of real people -- real families -- out there was especially appealing.

"I really like the other social media photo campaigns (NoH8 and Israel-Loves-Iran) and think that they really help to put individual faces to their respective causes - it helps people feel more meaningfully connected to a cause if you can actually see the people affected and read their messages and how it affects their lives personally," Leary told EDGE.

"The goals of this campaign are to show the faces of individuals, families, friends and allies in Pennsylvania who are pushing for marriage equality in the state. The more photo messages we are able to post, the bigger impact it could have on the views and opinions of legislatures and our fellow Pennsylvanians."

Marriage equality is currently legal in twelve states, with the anticipation being that at least two more may join their ranks in the near future. Though there are thirty states with anti-gay measures enshrined in their constitutions barring gay and lesbian families access to marriage (and, sometimes, civil unions or other forms of legal recognition), there are efforts in some of those places to repeal the anti-gay constitutional language and replace it with marriage-affirming provisions.

Photos at the campaign's Facebook page show families and individuals holding signs with messages such as, "Same Love, Same Family, Same Sex, Marriage Now!" and a quote from William Penn that observes, "Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it."

One couple is pictured together, holding a placard that reads, "17 years together and still waiting for Equal Marriage in Pennsylvania."

"I would love to see this go viral, so please consider sending in a photo and sharing this with your members and also your social networks," Leary said.

Those interested in sending their marriage equality and family parity messages may write #CommonwealthEquality at and follow the group on Twitter.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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