PSEC Exec. Director’s Remarks at Marriage Equality Rally

I usually do not post remarks that I made at events, but I thought sharing this online may capture part of the dynamic conversation going on right now with young LGBTQ leaders and marriage equality.

I honestly had apprehensions about speaking at the Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania rally in Harrisburg this afternoon, but I am glad I did. There were 100+ supporters present which included community leaders from different pockets of the state from Erie to Philadelphia.

The prime focus of the rally was on relationship recognition, which is not an issue I personally focus much on. As a youth activist, I rally first on issues such as youth homelessness, school violence, community health, and policing concerns. Yet, the emerging group which sponsored the event was hosting the first LGBTQ advocacy rally on the Capitol steps in a decade. When the call is made, you show up.

For my part, I chose to focus on individual responsibility as advocates and challenging the current institutions for LGBTQ work in Pennsylvania. Many of the things I said were clearly not part of the mainstream conversation. It was something I felt they needed to hear – as no one else was making similar remarks. I was the only speaker to bring up community stratification and privilege as key issues to address. Out of the dozen speakers, there was only one person of color and no trans identified folks.

I take many cues from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) of the 1960s. At 23 years old, SNCC Chairman John Lewis was the youngest person to speak at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His original speech called out Democrats for being inept and the President’s administration for stalling on certain issues. The adults censored his speech and he was forced to revise it. No one asked to approve my remarks beforehand. So here they are.

Good morning.

Thank you everyone for coming out today to create a better Pennsylvania, our home.

My name is Jason Landau Goodman. I am a student at the University of Pennsylvania and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. PSEC represents our statewide LGBTQ youth organization – working as a coalition of high school and college GSAs across the Commonwealth.

I am here today as a queer-identified, young Pennsylvanian, working with other youth across the state who are invested in this fight and leading effective advocacy locally and at the state level.

We know our youth generation is well advanced on LGBTQ civil rights and marriage equality. For many young Pennsylvanians, Republican or Democrat, this is a non-issue.

I come before you today as well as a lobbyist on LGBTQ issues, working every day I am in Harrisburg on promoting legislation that reflect an affirming Commonwealth. Myself and the youth leaders we bring regularly to the Capitol – from Erie and McKean Counties – Scranton to Pittsburgh – Berks to Bucks Counties – know the front lines well.

After two years, we have found that we must be calculated and strategic to be effective. It is fantastic that we have this rally today, but waving our general support on this sidewalk may mean little more than the words spoken today. But it does not have to be. The legislature may not be in session today but these messages can be felt and taken home with you to organize with your local leaders. We need to deploy ourselves as troops in this struggle, and have community oversight on that.

We must remain focused that it will take 26 votes in the State Senate, 102 votes in the House of Representatives, and the support of the Governor to get anything done for social justice.

Through all of this, working full-time on LGBTQ advocacy, I have found the biggest change we face is not our ultra-opposition. We will never earn the support of those who express bigotry as a core value.

Our largest challenge does not exist with our strongest supporters. We often have charismatic leaders or organizations posturing to us for attention or campaign dollars. We can generally count on those votes.

The greatest obstacle we face is within ourselves. Let me explain why.

Our success in Pennsylvania will not be captured by a statewide LGBTQ organization, but us as independent agents taking individual responsibility for completing effective engagement with moderates.

Community based advocacy, where individuals spark fundamental change, will directly empower our success. This includes shifting the positions on LGBTQ equality with everyone in your networks. Having courageous conversations with your family at the dinner table, challenging comments made at your general store or civic association. We know laws alone will only secure part of our goal. Social progress must also be pressed for to execute civil rights laws.

With a majority of Pennsylvanians supporting the dignity of all, compassion will run over the General Assembly.

This process of securing our civil equality must also foster the fire of our community spirit. Beyond any organization or label, because often they come and go, our resilience over generations, and inclusivity of all those fighting with us must prevail. Ensuring every voice is welcomed, regardless of privilege or experience, must be heard, and respected at the table. Together, we can build a better table.

Whatever happens with the Supreme Court, not much at all would change in Pennsylvania. We will still not have nondiscrimination, hate crimes protections, or safer schools. Next week, what we can do, is be ignited to contact your legislators to get us there. In Pennsylvania, this is incredibly easy – and every letter and email counts. When the legislature goes on recess this July – visit them in your district to articulate a convincing case as to why they should take a step forward on a key bill. And then, we can ask them to take another step, and another. With legislators across the state taking steps forward, we will reach our goals.

For marriage equality, the bill we have is SB 719. How many co-sponsors does this legislation have? Five. Five. There is no reason this bill should not have at least 20 co-sponsors.

In closing, let us define ourselves by how we overcome the barriers ahead – breaking down the fiefdoms we have around Pennsylvania, the silos that exist within our community – and choose to bind each other to improving our communities for everyone.

The movable middle, moderates, are waiting for our message.

So let us be clear: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all is what we want.

Pennsylvania is our home, so let us wake up and get to work.

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