The following is an excerpt of remarks given by Mark A. Aronchick upon receiving the PNC Achievement Award at the Philadelphia Bar Association's annual luncheon Tuesday for his work on
Whitewood v. Wolf,
which overturned Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban.
Mark A. Aronchick
is a partner at Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller and a former chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association
In honoring me today, you really honor the better ideals and qualities of all of us.
The reason why PNC does such a great thing by establishing this annual award is that it gives us all a chance to think about how much good we can do for our community and for others. . . .
Nothing that I have ever taken on has been more important than the fight for marriage equality. But then, so many of you know that because this Bar Association has been in the forefront of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights for decades.
Why was this case so life-affirming? It was all about profound values, of love, respect, and dignity. And it was brought by plaintiffs - a real cross-section of Pennsylvanians - who showed us the meaning of courage, commitment, and integrity.
And that brings me to the real heroes in this long-running battle. Like every other great social change in our country, the courageous folks were those who over the years stood up to friends or family, in dorm rooms on parent visitor weekends, or around family dinner tables, or in small social settings, and said something like: "Look into my eyes. I am gay, but I love like you love, my heart beats like your heart. Please love and respect me." They are the people of courage. They paved the way.
I thank all of the members of my firm for supporting this effort with such a huge commitment of resources. I was part of a legal dream team: Helen Casale, John Stapleton, Dylan Steinberg, Rebecca Melley, and Bob Hrouda of our firm; along with Reggie Shuford and Mary Catherine Roper, Molly Tack-Hooper, Vic Walczak, James Esseks, and Leslie Cooper of the ACLU; and the superstar Penn Law professor Seth Kreimer.
But we also had a dream team of opponents - Jim Schultz, Greg Dunlap, Bill Lamb, and his team - people who fought hard for their clients but who rose to great heights after losing and recognized that it made no sense to appeal that loss, and instead it made all the sense in the world to embrace the court ruling fully and completely.
And what a judge, Judge John E. Jones III, who saw the singular importance of this case and who wrote an opinion that taught the public, both here and across the country, why our Constitution protects all of our people and why the laws that were overturned belonged, as he said, on the ash heap of history.
As a result of all of this, we saw almost no rancor, and instead emotional marriage celebration after celebration since May. Anyone who thought that permitting same-sex marriage would diminish the institution of marriage needs to go to these ceremonies.
So what else can I say to you in my few remaining words?
Perhaps a few lessons that I learned from my family and from my wonderful wife, Judi, and from so many friends. . . .
Always look into the eyes of each person who crosses your path, who needs some help or just a pat on the back, and listen, really listen to them.
You will see a common yearning - to be loved, respected, and accepted.
And when you see that, and if you know you can help, then help. Don't ask why; just help.
Because if you do, you will have a gift in return, second to nothing else you will ever experience. Some of the best things that have ever happened to me were a result of following this basic notion. You will get out of your head and into your heart and understand your own humanity.
As my philosophers the Beatles said so long ago, "The love you take is equal to the love you make." So let's celebrate the good and continue to lift each other up.