Sex, Politics and Religion

How We Won Marriage in Ireland and the USA
Thalia Zepatos and Dr Grainne Healy

The historic victories for marriage equality in Ireland and the United States in 2015 were the result of years of careful, strategic work. Hear from key leaders of both campaigns about the secrets of their success, and the similarities and differences between the campaigns in each country.

Dr Grainne Healy of Yes Equality, Ireland

Dr. Grainne HealyDr Grainne Healy has been chairwoman of Marriage Equality, Ireland, since 2004 – the initiative which sought equal access to civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples. She was also Co-Director of Yes Equality, the campaign which led and won the marriage equality referendum campaign in Ireland in May 2015. She is the co-author of ‘Ireland Says Yes – How the referendum was won’ (Healy, Sheehan, Whelan 2016).

Yes Equality has scooped many awards at home and abroad since May 2015, including the prestigious ‘People of the Year Award’ for the community organisation of the year in Ireland. Healy, herself has been honoured for her work on marriage equality and Yes Equality in 2013 by Dublin City University, by Irish Gay and Lesbian Awards in 2014 as ‘Volunteer of the Year’ and as a Tatler Woman of the Year award in November 2015.

Grainne was Chairwoman of the European Women’s Lobby’s Observatory on Violence against women from 1997-2009. She is a former Chairwoman of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (1999-2003) and a feminist activist who has worked on feminist and social justice-change and human rights issues since the early 1980’s.

Former Chairwoman of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency (NDVIA) and Member of the Board of the Equality Authority of Ireland and the Women’s Health Council of Ireland, Grainne worked specifically on the issue of sex trafficking and prostitution with the ‘Dignity Project’ which sought to deliver inter-agency services for victims of sex trafficking. She was involved in the initiation of the Immigrant Council of Ireland’s ‘Turn off the Red Light’ campaign which has worked to see the introduction of criminalisation of purchasers of sex and was a member of the Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women. She is co-author with Monica O’Connor of ‘The Links Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: A Briefing Handbook (EWL 2006)’.

A former secondary school teacher and journalist, Grainne was editor of the women’s publishing house Attic Press in the early 1990’s and taught Women’s Studies in the community with Women’s Education Resource and Research Centre at UCD. She has worked for many years with lone parent representative groups and local development organisations and has conducted research, developed strategic plans and successfully attracted funding from Irish and EU funding bodies on social justice and social inclusion issues. Involved in the significant campaigns for equality and women’s rights in Ireland for over 25 years, Grainne continues to be committed to equality for all.

Thalia Zepatos of Marriage Equality, USA

Thalia ZepatosThalia Zepatos advanced the US movement for the freedom to marry through leadership roles spanning more than a decade, culminating in her work as Freedom to Marry’s Director of Research and Messaging (2010 through December, 2015). Responsible for driving messaging and public opinion research, she is widely recognized as the “message guru” who led the movement’s messaging shift, resulting in exponential growth in public support that paved the way for the historic Supreme Court victory. Known for her collaborative, movement-building approach, Thalia developed turn-key resources shared throughout the movement along with two ground-breaking national partnerships: Why Marriage Matters – a public education partnership of more than 40 state and national organizations – and Familia es Familia, a national partnership of two-dozen Latino civil rights organizations.

With over 25 year of expertise in electoral politics, Thalia provided leadership for the crucial ballot victories on marriage in November, 2012 – the movement’s first-ever victories at the ballot. She has been a sought-after campaign consultant, campaign manager, and field director electing local and statewide women candidates and defeating anti-gay and anti-choice ballot measures across the US.

Thalia is in demand as a speaker, trainer, and consultant, both domestically internationally, with other campaigns and social movements. She is a Huffington Post writer, the co-author of Women for a Change: A Grassroots Guide to Activism and Politics, and the author of two travel books for women. She lives in Portland, Oregon.