I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU… FRIENDS?: LOCALS UNITE FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY (EXCLUSIVE)
In the wake of the defeat of the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act, commonly referred to as the “Marriage Equality Bill,” three Asbury Park residents have formed a grass-roots organization to continue the marriage equality fight as the issue moves through the next phase of the legal process.
The Committee to Unseat Sean Kean, was founded by Thomas Mannix, Tim Horn and Paul Vail, to educate area residents about the importance of marriage equality, to explain the difference between “civil unions” and “marriage” and to support 2011 senatorial candidates to unseat 11th District Senator Sean Kean, who voted against the bill.
“Until we can reach the point where we view everyone as equals we are just going to look like asses,” said Doug Forbes, who, with his wife Elena support marriage equality. “A lot of the hatred out there is based on fear by straight white guys, of which I am one, however I stand for marriage equality and think Senator Kean has such an extrordinarily ignorant argument.”
Many appreciate Forbes’ support of the new organization.
“Our organization is a non-partisan coalition of gay and straight citizens from District 11 who will not stand for second-class status for gay couples in committed relationships,” said Thomas Mannix, chairperson of the group, who, with his partner Kevin Pilla, were the first New Jersey residents civil unionized by former Mayor Kevin Sanders in 2007.
Mannix, Tim Horn, treasurer, and Paul Vail secretary, launched the Committee to Unseat Sean Kean at a packed rally
in Georgie’s bar Thursday.
“Many still do not realize that the terms domestic partner or civil union partner do not and never will carry the equal and full weight of marriage,” said Mannix. “There is no box to check when a loved one enters the hospital for a civil union partner. Every day, gays and lesbians are discriminated against because of the lack of understanding of what civil union means.”
The not-for-profit organization has purchased anti-Kean full-page advertisements in local publications in addition to printing lawn signs which are available to everyone in the area and developed a website (UnseatSeanKean.com) to communicate with District 11 constituents. A full social media promotional program is also being implemented as well as a fundraising initiative.
According to Vail, the organization’s Facebook page was the fastest growing page in New Jersey last week with 1,500 followers as of press time.
A search of Facebook found three other new organizations with similar missions in other districts fighting against New Jersey senators – Republican and Democrat who voted against the marriage equality bill.
After a six-minute speech January 7, calling the bill “one of the toughest issues” in his career, 11th District State Senator Sean Kean voted against the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act. Subsequently, the bill was defeated in a vote of 20 to 14.
“When Senator Kean said in his speech that he has friends that are gay and that the economy improves when gay people move into town, it was condescending and pandered to the gay and lesbian citizens of New Jersey and their friends,” said Mannix. “Basically, Kean said that gay people are good for property values but not good enough for marriage equality.”
In an interview with The Coaster last week Senator Kean stressed that he did not intend to insult anyone.
“I apologize if anyone was offended by my speech,” said Senator Kean. “Some say that I have the gayest district in the state. My goal was to express my appreciation for the community and explain the thought process behind my vote.”
Senator Kean believes that it was impossible to please all his constituents with this issue, even if he chose not to speak prior to voting.
“I certainly do not view the gay community as second-class citizens as has been portrayed,” said Senator Kean. “However, I do believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
Senator Kean added that constituent communications to his office prior to the vote were “50 – 50 for and against the bill.”
“In my forty-plus years the positive change I have seen is phenominal,” said Forbes, who is a featured writer on the Huffington Post. “The fabric of this country is changing and I believe it is not a matter of ‘if’ it is just a matter of ‘when’ equality in marriage for everyone will happen.”
The Committee to Unseat Sean Kean will consider all candidates, regardless of political affiliation, who hope to unseat Senator Kean in 2011.
“Kean wants us to get collective amnesia when it comes time for his reelection in 2011 and CUSK is here to make sure that does not happen,” said Horn, to applause from the Georgie’s audience.
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