Let’s Make This Official

Mayor of Braddock, John Fetterman, makes national news by marrying for the right reason.

It’s never a bad idea to have someone with as large of a presence as John Fetterman on your side.

The Mayor of Braddock — who has made nationwide headlines for his radical ideas about revitalizing the steel town — says being an ally for LGBT rights, especially marriage rights, is supporting something fundamental.

“Discrimination, in all its forms, is a zerosum game,” he says. “It always hurts.”

In early August, Mayor Fetterman performed Allegheny County’s first samesex marriage when John Kandray and Bill Gray of Swissvale approached him with their Montgomery County marriage license.

“It’s weird because he’s a pretty imposing figure, but as soon as I talked to him I could just tell,” John says. The couple, who have been together 11 years, drove to eastern Pennsylvania on August 2, where Bruce Hanes, the register of wills has issued more than 100 same-sex marriage licenses.

They heard the Mayor on a radio program saying he would perform the ceremony, so to make the marriage valid, they jumped at the chance, John says.

“Who exactly does it harm if John and Bill get married in this state?”

Mayor John Fetterman

Mayor Fetterman was one of the first Pennsylvania mayors to sign a statement by “Mayors for Freedom to Marry” supporting same-sex marriage rights. He was also named a Champion of Change last year by the White House.

“They’re lovely people and a great couple, so it was a no-brainer,” he says of John, 40, and Bill, 41.

Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act, a ban on same-sex marriage, is unjust, Mayor Fetterman says.

“Who exactly does it harm if John and Bill get married in this state?” he asks. “They’re not asking for anything special, they’re asking to be treated just like everyone else.”

John also married Peg Keady, 50, and her partner Megan Smith, 45, of Forest Hills at his home.

“It was nothing like we imagined and better than we could’ve dreamed,” Peg says.

The couple had talked about getting married, especially after the Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in June.

They considered traveling to Connecticut where family members live, but “we always thought if we were going to get married, our choice, our dream, would be to do it here” in Pittsburgh.

So the couple of 13 years, who have two children, also traveled to Montgomery County to get a license.

Peg says they were glad to have Mayor Fetterman preside over the ceremony, about a week after John and Bill, because they feel the he is doing this for local couples as “a pure act of conscience” not because of a political agenda.

“This is real civil disobedience and to me it’s something we shouldn’t have to be disobedient about,” Peg says.

Both the Mayor and his wife, Gisele, were extremely genuine and helpful, John says, helping fill the rushed ceremony with compassion.

“They just rallied around us like we were part of their families,” he says.

Both couples felt a sense of urgency, since the state Department of Health has filed a lawsuit to order Montgomery County to cease and desist.

The Mayor says the “indefensible” state legislation enacted in 1996 should protect rather than harm the people of Pennsylvania.

“Who wants to live in a community where they’re treated like second- or third-class citizens?” he says.

Especially over the long-term, from a mayor’s point of view, Pennsylvania’s economy could suffer while other states offer same-sex benefits to couples who leave the Keystone State.

“It’s good for business, it’s good for society and it’s the right thing to do,” he says; instead, the state should be making progress forward. “Having a law like this on the books holds us back.”

John says most of the couples the Mayor has married look to band together with others that were issued marriage licenses.

He hopes Mayor Fetterman’s willingness to support and perform same-sex marriages encourages other officials to do the same, making an impact.

“Now’s not the time to be quiet,” John says

Whatever turns same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania take, Peg says she is glad to be a part of progress, ready to head to Harrisburg with Megan if she has to.

“I think this is speeding up the process, like putting a rock on the gas pedal,” she says.

Having an ally like Mayor Fetterman to speak out for marriage equality gives strength to progress toward equality, John says.

“When you see someone standing up and fighting and fighting on your behalf, it’s really empowering,” he says.

Stacey Federoff is a Sutersville, PA native, Penn State alumna, and reporter living in Park Place near Regent Square. She has written for The Daily Collegian, The Chautauquan Daily, Trib Total Media. She loves music, vinyl records, coffee, running, and volunteerism.