MEUSA is proud to be a coordinating committee member of Unite for Marriage, the coalition of national organizations fighting for marriage equality. As a part of this coalition, MEUSA will be jointly sponsoring marriage equality events across the country on the day the Supreme Court of the United States hands down its decision in the marriage equality case currently before it.
To participate, please check the Unite for Marriage website regularly for planned events in your area, or to post an event you are organizing or participating in. And, please be sure to use the hashtag #DecisionDay in all of your social media!
Because the precise date of the court’s decision is not known and won’t be known until 10 o’clock in the morning Eastern Time on the day the decision is issued, preliminary plans are being made that will be executed at the last-minute. Please check http://www.uniteformarriage.org/ regularly for updated information.
First image created by MEUSA Creative Director Glenn Rosko.
Second and third photos taken by Paul Carey.
Fighting for social change is in my blood,” says longtime MEUSA volunteer and former board member Kirsten Berzon. “I come from a family of social justice advocates. The draw toward MEUSA was pretty simple for me,” she says of her immediate interest in the organization back in 2006.
Kirsten dates joining the MEUSA family back to a Pride event in Oakland, CA. “I met Davina Kotulski, former MEUSA Executive Director, there. I already knew who she and her then-wife, Molly McKay, were; both tremendous leaders in the movement — even before there was a movement. We started talking and when I mentioned that I was a professional event planner, her eyes lit up.”
The serendipitous encounter would lead to Kirsten’s involvement in a series of MEUSA events and award ceremonies, from chairing the San Francisco Awards Receptions to organizing the MEUSA presence in the San Francisco Pride Parade and Celebration, to planning smaller fundraisers. Her initial interest was a simple quest for equality. “Equal civil marriage rights are a matter of civil rights. LGBT people should not be treated any differently than straight people. The fact that the 1,183 rights of marriage were not available to LGBT people, simply because of who they love, was not something I could accept without trying to advocate for social change,” says Kirsten.
But it was an epiphany, of sorts, that turbo-charged Kirsten’s marriage equality activism. “One moment that really hit me was sitting in a MEUSA leadership retreat in October 2006, shortly after meeting Davina, and learning that over 50 rights of those 1,183 attributable to marriage pertain to tax law. To think that, should my spouse die, I would be treated as a legal stranger in the eyes of the law and could potentially be financially destitute after being denied social security benefits, was unconscionable to me. This was one of those moments when I knew I had to get involved.”
After serving as a board member and Treasurer of MEUSA from 2008 to 2009, Kirsten returned to the ranks of dedicated MEUSA volunteers to focus on the San Francisco Awards Reception. “It has been wonderful to see the Bay Area community come together for this event and really support it. The work of MEUSA in the Bay Area, until 2013, was much more focused on education, rallies and the like. We weren’t sure if there was an appetite for a fundraising event or if we had the right audience. Not only have we found our audience, the event has gotten bigger and better each year, raising more and more funds for the organization. Honoring Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Judge Vaughn Walker, two important heroes of our movement, as well as getting to thank them in person, was a huge highlight of my time with MEUSA.”
Kirsten says she is glad she chose to channel her activism to MEUSA among the major LGBTQ rights organizations. “Time and time again, MEUSA has taught me that a small group of people really can change the world. It has been clear to me from day one that changing hearts and minds, by telling our stories, one person at a time, is what has resulted in so much movement on this issue in such a short period of time. While the ‘big boys’ may have more staff, market share and funding, Marriage Equality USA is ‘the little organization that could.’"
First photo: Kirsten Berzon and Davina Kotulski. Photo courtesy of Kirsten Berzon's Facebook.
Second photo: Kirsten Berzon, by Kathy Ma.
Third photo: Kirsten Berzon and her wife Kathy Ma served as San Francisco Pride June 2009 poster women. This photo shows them next to a poster of them on a SF bus stop shelter - they are wearing their MEUSA t-shirts. Photo courtesy of Kirsten Berzon
Marriage Equality USA was delighted with the success of the Unite for Marriage campaign, having supported the organization of rallies held in states across the country on April 28, the day the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against marriage equality. MEUSA Executive Director Brian Silva noted that as a grassroots organization with the most direct contact with its members, MEUSA’s lead was pivotal among the handful of top sponsoring organizations.
“MEUSA staff on the ground in DC helped to prepare and execute events. We had five staff members for the rally in front of the court; Stuart [Gaffney], Juan Carlos [Fernandez], John [Lewis], Paul [Carey], and myself. I also served as one of the coordinators on the team that supported 50 events around the country,” says Brian.
MEUSA made sure there was additional support for and emphasis placed on the regional events, not just the DC events. This was a strategic decision MEUSA pushed for among the lead organizations. “That was something we pressed for,” says Brian. “We were able to make sure things happened. There were thousands of people in DC and tens of thousands involved with all the local events that took place.” The widespread participation ensured both local and national news coverage documenting the breadth of support marriage equality enjoys even in areas formerly hostile toward LGBTQ rights. Rallies were held as far away as Alaska, on both coasts and in many central states as well.
Brian was also asked (at the last minute, without prepared remarks) to speak at the DC rally. “I was able to speak in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, representing all of the work done by grassroots activists to get to this point,” he says.
Included in the campaign was a 12-hour evening vigil the night before the U.S. Supreme Court marriage hearing outside the Court. The intention was to create a more spiritual setting in which to ground the rallies that would be held the next day. The vigil culminated in a morning procession led by faith leaders from the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC, to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
As for the Unite for Marriage day itself, Brian says, “It was an honor to be one of the grassroots voices at the table making sure our nation came together to support this historic day.” Among the other lead organizations were GLAAD, the National LGBTQ Task Force, Freedom to Marry, GetEQUAL, the Human Rights Campaign and the Campaign for Southern Equality.
With hope beginning to emerge that the U.S. Supreme Court will make marriage equality a nationwide reality, once and for all, in June, he adds that, “We are working for more than just marriage and we need to fight for full equality regardless of the outcome in June — full lived equality. That means things like non-discrimination laws and policies for LGBTQ people, defeating religious “right to discriminate” bills, and also remembering that our community is diverse. Women’s issues are our issues, veteran’s issues are our issues, youth issues and race issues are our issues. These are all priorities for our movement.”
To see photos from rallies across the country and more information about individual rallies, please go to: http://www.uniteformarriage.org/local-events.html.
First photo: Courtesy San Francisco, CA Unite for Marriage event page Facebook
Second photo: Courtesy of Huntsville, AL Unite for Marriage event page Facebook, Lisa Cox
Third photo: MEUSA ED Brian Silva speaking at Washington DC Unite for Marriage Rally, by Paul Carey, MEUSA Multimedia Director
Fourth photo: Unite for Marriage rally crowd, Washington DC, by Paul Carey, MEUSA Multimedia Director