Following DC: What the Freedom to Marry in the Capital Means Nationwide

By Evan Wolfson, Executive Director, Freedom to Marry

Today, surrounded by friends and family, the first same-sex couples in Washington D.C. to receive marriage licenses are celebrating their legal marriages.  D.C. now officially joins the five states and eight countries that have ended exclusion from marriage.  Marriage in our nation's capital marks a significant victory not only for D.C. couples who no longer need to leave home to secure the protections and responsibilities of marriage, but also for the national movement to win the freedom to marry.

Local advocates spent years doing the critical work of educating lawmakers, engaging with District residents about gay people and marriage, telling personal stories, and building relationships with key allies. That work has resulted in same-sex couples being better able to care for their families - and took nothing away from any other family.

Our victory in D.C. brings us one step closer to winning marriage for all committed couples - and other victories are within reach.  A key component of the Freedom to Marry roadmap to winning marriage nationwide is to grow the number of states where same-sex couples share in the freedom to marry.  The more states that end the denial of marriage, the more Americans get to see with their own eyes families helped and no one hurt.  The more states we win, the closer America comes to the climate that will enable a federal victory in Congress or the Supreme Court, bringing national resolution.

To maintain the powerful momentum created by victory in D.C., the freedom to marry movement must increase education, mobilization, and legislator-persuasion efforts in the next wave of states in which victories are within reach.  In Rhode Island, New York, Minnesota, and Maryland, a critical mass of lawmakers for the freedom to marry is at hand.  In Maine and California (where legislatures have already voted for marriage, but must overcome a hurdle at the ballot-box), along with Oregon, state-based public education campaigns are underway to lay the groundwork for victory at the ballot.  Every conversation gay and non-gay marriage supporters have with lawmakers, friends, and family moves the ball forward.  The work we do together in these states in 2010 will make all the difference in adding them to the growing list of states where same-sex couples share in marriage. 

Marriage in Washington D.C. has important implications not only for the state-by-state component of the Roadmap to Victory, but also for another element, Freedom to Marry's commitment to federal advances along the way. As members of Congress and the Administration mingle with local committed couples living more securely than before and witness first-hand that the sky does not fall, it will be evident that there is no good reason for denying gay couples the freedom to marry, and every reason to end the federal discrimination against married couples inflicted through the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act."  As our allies in Congress continue to grow support for the "Respect for Marriage Act", which would repeal the discrimination inflicted by "DOMA"  they won't have to look far to point to committed same-sex couples whose families are more secure as a result of their marriages but who still lack the more than a thousand federal marriage consequences unfairly denied to married same-sex couples.

Those of us impatient for the day when America no longer excludes committed couples from marriage have to redouble our efforts - not as a piecemeal set of actions, but as a true campaign with its eyes on the prize.  Each of us can do our part, taking the actions we can most effectively do, as part of a larger whole that brings it all together.  That's Freedom to Marry's vision, call to action, and Roadmap to Victory.  Join us - and let's make a good idea coming out of Washington, D.C. real throughout America.