Anne Horwitz Shipley (pictured left) from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on August 30, 2014, and decided to call her Mitzvah Project: Marriage Equality, which benefits the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign.
She decided to host a fundraiser and art project dedicated to raising awareness for marriage equality in May 2014 at Mishkan Shalom Synagogue.
We asked Anne some questions about her unique Mitzvah Project so we could learn more:
MM: Can you please give us details about your Mitzvah Project?
AH: For 8 months, I researched and wrote about marriage equality, raised over $750 for the cause, and ran an outdoor benefit event. I focused on marriage-equality in Pennsylvania by interviewing some of the people who were suing. I also looked at the newspaper and the internet. When I read interviews with people who opposed marriage-equality or I watched an anti-same-sex marriage video, it was hard for me to see the other side of the argument. It reminded me of how people discriminated against African-Americans in the past.
MM: Tell us about your event.
AH: My event was a hands-on benefit art project to support marriage equality. It was a public art event at the parking lot of my synagogue where we made a temporary mural in chalk: drawings and words describing what love meant to us all. We documented the event with photographs and put them online. Participants were invited to make a donation to the ACLU and the HRC.
Anne receiving her first donation check for her cause
MM: Does your project have a start and end date, if so what are they?
AH: My project was from November 2014 – June 2014.
MM: Why did you decide to take on this particular project/charity?
AH: When I began my project, same sex marriage was illegal in Pennsylvania. I wrote the below paragraphs at that time, but in the interim, it’s become legal!
Here’s what Anne wrote:
“The first line of the US Constitution states, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: All men are created equal.’ But only twelve states in the U.S. permit same-sex couples to get married, and Pennsylvania is not one of them.
In Pennsylvania, twelve same-sex couples, two children of same-sex couples, and one person whose partner died, are suing. Some are suing so they can get married. Others are suing because their marriage isn’t recognized; and others are suing because they believe future same-sex couples should have the right to get married and not be discriminated against. The ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign are helping these families reach their goal.
They are asserting that not having the choice to get married legally or be recognized as a married couple violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees ‘equal protection of the laws’ to ‘any person.’ Also, even if you’ve been married in another state where same-sex marriage is legal, if you move to a state where it isn’t, the state doesn’t recognize your marriage. You can’t get divorced, your partner and you can’t get financial aid, tax benefits, benefits from one’s job, and other legal benefits you get from marriage.
Also, not only is this legally unfair, but also socially unfair. For example, when you do something big in life like getting married you like to make it official or in this case legal. Being deprived of that choice deprives you of a social and emotional recognition. In addition if the couple has a child, the child may face challenges with their peers. Although some people chose not to be married, all people should be able to say: this is my partner, this who I am, and I’m legally married.”
MM: In your own words, what does it mean to you to do a Mitzvah Project for your Bat Mitzvah?
AH: To teach others, learn and have a bigger understanding of other people. I know now that even the smallest things can create a bigger effect in society.
Anne poses with her family
Anne was also quoted in the Philadelphia Gay News about her views on same-sex marriage, “I think it is important because at least my generation is expecting the worst of the country when they get older and I think this economy will get worse if we don’t do something about it,” she said. “Younger people have to take a stand and if you show that teens and kids can do something, then maybe it can show someone else that they can accomplish things.”
MM: What did you do to spread the word about your project?
AH: I sent my publicity flyers to a large email list as well as posted them in my community, and contacted relevant organizations (e.g., ACLU) and publications (e.g., Philadelphia Gay News). I also put an ad and an article in our synagogue newsletter. As it turned out, some of the organizations and publications spontaneously wanted to put my publicity on their Websites, Twitter, and even wrote an article about it.
Anne suggested donations of $18 or an amount equal to your age
MM: How long can people donate to this charity?
AH: As long as they like, even though the formal project is over — the struggle still continues in this country.
MM: Is there anything else you would like us to know about your Mitzvah Project?
AH: My brother designed and made t-shirts for our family with the marriage equality symbol on them, and he took the photos for me. We also had music and refreshments: very important for a festive atmosphere!
We thank Anne for sharing this terrific Mitzvah Project with our readers!