Lehigh Valley

Same-sex couples wed in NJ following equality march in Pa.

Same-sex couples wed in NJ following equality march in PA

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - Three couples are celebrating marriages after a ceremony Thursday night. The couples are from Pennsylvania but had to go to New Jersey to get legally married.

The night started with a rally in Easton, Pa., with supporters who would like to see marriage equality in Pennsylvania.

"Just this week, Illinois passed marriage equality, Hawaii is on the verge of passing marriage equality, New Jersey recently passed marriage equality and we're hoping for a win here in Pennsylvania," said Adrian Shanker, president of Equality Pennsylvania.

"You can see it from right here, you can see New Jersey," Shanker told the group during the rally.

After several people spoke, the group made the short walk across the bridge to "bridge the gap" so three same-sex couples could get legally married in New Jersey.

Legislation to repeal Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act was introduced in September and has been in the judiciary committee. Not everyone supports the idea.

"As far as I can see, there's no bipartisan support to change Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act," said Pa. Rep. Mark Gillen, R-Berks Co. "This legislature is not going to embrace nor pass something that tears at the bedrock of our culture and that is traditional marriage."

The three same-sex marriages were performed Thursday night in New Jersey in front of the group. There were cheering and celebration.

"When they come back across that bridge they will have access to numerous federal benefits and no state benefits here in Pennsylvania and that's wrong, and that's why we're marching and fighting today," said Shanker.

"We really would have preferred to be married in Pennsylvania, the state where we work, pay taxes, own two homes," said William Mauro, one of the people to get married.

"We had our marriage where we committed to each other nine and half years ago. This is the opportunity for me to feel like I'm giving my family security," said Maryann Kelley, another person to get married.

"It's pretty exciting," said Jerry Schmidt, who also got married at the ceremony Thursday. "We've been a couple for almost 26 years. We had a civil union in Vermont in 2000, so it's kind of like doing this again, but unfortunately we have to do it again."

On the national level, the U.S. Senate approved a bill Thursday that would outlaw discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace, but it faces an uphill battle in the House.

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