Mt. Airy arts fundraiser doubles as gay marriage rally

“Girl, I’m gonna make you sweat/sweat till you can’t sweat no more…” pulsates out of speakers as people get up to sway to the beat. The kissing booth is bright pink and yellow and art is hanging in all corners of the garage.

It was National Freedom to Marry Day on Sunday, February 12, and in Mt. Airy, the call for dancing, creating community through art, and celebrating the freedom to marry for citizens of any sexuality was answered.

From the afternoon to early evening, the Mt. Airy Arts Garage held a Valentine’s Day Dance Party to raise funds to continue their art mission in Northwest Philly. But when Arleen Olshan, one of the co-founders of the Arts Garage, looked at her feminist calendar she saw another reason to celebrate. “We had already decided on a date. When I saw that it was National Freedom to Marry Day, I knew that it had to be our theme for the event.”

Olshan and Linda Slodki, the other co-founder of MAAG, have been activists and leaders in the LGBT community in Philadelphia for decades, and the movement for gay marriage is at a defining point. The New Jersey state Senate has just passed legislation for gay marriage. President Obama is still evolving on his stance for gay marriage, and Philadelphia Mayor Nutter has been one of the many mayors around the country who have signed the Mayors for Freedom to Marry petition.

Virg Gutierrez, one of the founding donors of the arts garage and local lawyer, said Philadelphia is the perfect city to be a leading example of marriage equality in the state of Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. She bobbed her head to DJ Lucky 7’s selections as she discussed where Philadelphia stands. “This is the city where the birth of our constitution took place. Philly has to take the lead on this issue and let Pennsylvania, a very repressive state, know that we will no longer accept second class citizenship. It would be a shame if we cannot grant equal rights to an entire group of citizens in the home of liberty.”

Gloria Casarez, the director of LGBT Affairs in the Office of the Mayor, was also in attendance at the dance. She came to support Arleen and Linda and say a few words on recognizing the rights of marriage protection for LGBT citizens. “Many people still see gay marriage as a special rights issue, and it’s really a civil rights issue.” As the night ended, the dance floor cleared, leaving a few dressed up couples, and conversations of a movement that is still unfolding.

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