The American Civil Liberties Union is staging a contest to give same-sex couples across the country a chance to tie the knot and demonstrate why Americans in all states deserve the freedom to marry, and one local couple is getting close to being among the winners.
My Big Gay Illegal Wedding, presented by the ACLU, will grant up to $5,000 each to five same-sex couples living in states that do not sanction marriage equality to wed in a neighboring marriage-equality state, illustrate the discriminatory nature of state laws banning marriage equality. The couples will also win a trip to New York City for their legal wedding receptions.
The five top-vote-getting couples will be selected, and the contest closes Feb. 16. More than 79,000 votes have been cast already, and John Pivovarnick and David Sartor, of Dunmore, are currently in the top 10, with about 3,200 votes. Seventeen other Pennsylvania couples also entered.
Pivovarnick, 53, and Sartor, 38, met 16 years ago through an AOL chat room. The couple talked online for a few months before they met in person.
Pivovarnick was apprehensive about the meeting but was taken aback by Sartor’s charm.
“When we first met, I was just taken with how cute he was,” Pivovarnick said. “We had been talking online for a while and you expect a troll on the other end.”
Sartor felt the same and said he was relieved to see how honest, and attractive, Pivovarnick was.
Even though they’ve been together 16 years, Pivovarnick still can’t add Sartor on his health insurance and the couple has encountered struggles when filing taxes.
The pair said they had planned to sue the state of Pennsylvania for the right to marry but, when they contacted the ACLU, they found that plans to do the same were well underway.
They later received an email from the agency about the contest.
“All my life I grew up thinking [marriage equality] could never happen,” Sartor said. “I figured, why is my home state so bigoted and close-minded? And it still is, so that is really why we entered the contest. It is not just for me and John. It is for everybody. Not everyone can get married. It takes away from everybody.”
The couple has a unique plan on how to cross state lines, akin to performance art.
They proposed crossing the Pennsylvania-New York border, leaving portraits of staunchly anti-equality figures like Gov. Corbett and Rick Santorum beneath broken glass on the Pennsylvania side, accompanied by friends and family holding signs with antigay statements made by Pennsylvania political pundits. On the New York side, the couple would be greeted by photos of marriage-equality supporters.
Sartor, an artist, said they would use some of the ACLU money towards staging the performance-art piece.
“Part of the money will got towards the wedding but we don’t intend on having a huge wedding,” he said. “We wanted to put it towards my art that will get the message about marriage equality out there.”