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GLBT Month Exclusive: Documentary on Gay Marriage Spotlights Missouri Social Worker

Ed Reggi (left) and Scott Emanuel.

Filmmaker Cody Stokes dated his girlfriend for six years.

But it wasn’t until he made “Heartland Transport,” a 10-minute documentary about a gay St. Louis social worker who organized marriage trips for same sex couples, that Stokes decided to tie the knot with Amanda last year.

“I’ve never been part of anything that has been so much joy in one day — to experience that and see these people be as happy as they are to be involved in civil liberties that were denied them,” Stokes said.

 “Heartland Transport,” which is being shown in film festivals and other venues around the country, follows the first trip organized by social worker and ACLU worker Scott Emanuel, MSW, and husband Ed Reggi, who is an actor, producer and community organizer. Missouri in 2004 passed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage but such weddings are legal in neighboring Iowa.

So Emanuel and Reggi started excursions to take same-sex couples on a 4 ½-hour bus trip from St. Louis to Iowa City to get married. The first trip took place in May 2009 and so far Emanuel and Reggi have organized four marriage tours.

 “So far we have taken 58 couples,” Emanuel said. “Our plan is to get 100 couples by the end of 2010.”

Stokes heard through a “friend of a friend” that Emanuel and Reggi wanted to film the first trip. He had never met them before. “I said I would love to do that and could edit a film out of it.”

Cody Stokes

The result is “Heartland Transport,” a film that shows short, but sometimes powerful and moving scenes from that first marriage trip. Stokes said this film has even swayed some people who were against gay marriage to at least reconsider their position.

 “When I put the film together I made a pretty conscious effort not to put any labels on it up front so people would not say it’s a gay film and not watch it,” Stokes said. “The title and advertising are ambiguous…to get people to experience this without preconceived notions.”

Stokes said he tried to put politics and religion aside and just show ordinary people who want to express their love for each other. “After every screening I have people come up and thank me for that,” he said.

Emanuel hopes the film will raise awareness among heterosexuals about gay marriage, which is now legal in five states and the District of Columbia. However, he hopes “Heartland Transport” will also help more gays and lesbians realize they can aspire to have long-term relationships and marry just like heterosexual people.

 “If you don’t see examples of relationships you don’t aspire to one,” he said. “The more they see they have choices in their lives, the better.”

Cody Stokes hosted a screening of “Heartland Transport” at the National Association of Social Workers headquarters in Washington, D.C. on May 28. Emanuel talked to the audience via conference call after the showing. To arrange a screening at your local chapter contact Stokes via email at: stokes.cody@gmail.com.

In honor of  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Month in June the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Web site talked to LGBT social workers about why they chose the profession. To read their profiles click here.

NASW also supports equal treatment for all, including members of the LGBT community. To find out more click here to visit the association’s Diversity and Equity Web page.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m a social worker for marriage equality! We need to lobby CSWE to include LGBT issues as mandatory in social worker education as part of their “Multicultural” requirement. At least then social workers will learn about LGBT folks! :-) Yay Missouri social workers!

  2. Amazing! Too bad this didn’t make it to http://www.outfest.org/fest2010/index.html

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