Freedom to Marry celebrates decade of marriage momentum with ‘Cheers to 10 Years’

This week, on Monday, April 28, Freedom to Marry celebrated its tenth anniversary – and the tenth anniversary of marriage between same-sex couples in the United States – at Cheers to 10 Years: Celebrating Freedom to Marry. The event, held at the Signature Theatre in New York and sponsored by Skyy Vodka, featured a creative showcase of music, dance, and film (produced by Peter Spears). It celebrated how far the campaign to win marriage nationwide has come in the last decade while encouraging supporters to look toward the finish line and work harder than ever toward a final victory.

Master of Ceremonies Cynthia Nixon (below, left) kicked off the night by reflecting on the long history of the marriage movement, tracking the long list of wins – 40% of the country now lives in a marriage state, a diverse majority of Americans now supports marriage for all, and the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act has been struck down, thanks to the tenacious, creative and collaborative work of marriage supporters.

Nixon recalled her own wedding vows to her wife Christine from May 2012. She said, “The amazing thing about Christine and my story is that it’s no longer unique. The tale of our nuptials is just one of tens of thousands of stories, each as special and compelling as the rest, and each made possible, in no small part, because of Freedom to Marry.”

Margaret Hoover (above, right) - CNN political contributor, best-selling author, and a leading chair of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry – took the stage next to talk about why marriage matters to her as a conservative and to introduce Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson. 

“Cynthia made reference earlier to Evan’s uncanny ability to persevere in the face of anything,” Hoover said, adding, “It makes me think she’s been in his office. For those of you who haven’t, he has a saying, framed on the wall. It’s Mahatma Gandhi and it says: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’”

She continued: “Well, Evan, no one’s laughing at you now. All that’s left is the fight.” Read her full remarks HERE.

Evan Wolfson joined Hoover on stage, welcomed by a standing ovation from the hundreds of marriage supporters who filled the theatre.

“Together our movement has built irrefutable momentum to get the job done,” Wolfson said, explaining how quickly and skillfully the movement has set the stage for a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the freedom to marry by winning marriage in a critical mass of states and building a supermajority of public support – 59% nationwide.

Wolfson explained:

All of this progress, this joy, this momentum, didn’t just happen. It wasn’t the product of one organization, one person, one case, one state, one battle, or even one decade.

"All of this progress, this joy, this momentum, didn’t just happen. It wasn’t the product of one organization, one person, one case, one state, one battle, or even one decade." - Evan Wolfson

We celebrate our movement that made this all so, a movement of non-gay and gay people and organizations taking action. Bloggers and lawyers. Donors and strategists. Protesters and clergy. Labor unions and businesses. Campaign volunteers and life-long movement activists. Kids talking to their parents across the kitchen table, and grandparents speaking out for their loved ones. Elected officials and judges. Millions of conversations, millions of contributions. Numerous organizations, countless individual acts of courage and commitment – all part of how change comes to America.

And we celebrate tonight the Freedom to Marry strategy that, through the movement’s embrace, involvement, and investment brought us this momentum and progress and will bring us to our goal: the freedom to marry nationwide.

Freedom to Marry was born to drive the strategy we celebrate tonight, to make of the parts a greater whole, to fill the gaps, and to wake up every day moving marriage forward, no matter how hard some of those days might be or how many doubted it could be done.

Even now, with so many organizations now doing important parts of the work, with hundreds of lawyers on 65+ cases in all but 3 of the states where we don’t yet have marriage, Freedom to Marry is the only organization singularly focused on winning marriage nationwide.

"Freedom to Marry is eyes on the prize and feet on the ground as the marriage movement’s catalyst, coach, convener, and campaign." - Evan Wolfson

Through a constant balancing of leadership and collaboration, through our more than 30 operatives throughout the country, and through our credibility and our track record of creativity, resilience, and success – Freedom to Marry is eyes on the prize and feet on the ground as the marriage movement’s catalyst, coach, convener, and campaign.

Tonight we celebrate, but we also recommit to the work of finishing the job we started. You are part of the movement, part of the success, part of the strategy, part of Freedom to Marry. Thank you for your continuing engagement, for your tenacity, for your commitment, for your contributions - past, present, and future. Thank you for joining us at this 10th anniversary party for Freedom to Marry.

With your help, we are determined; there will be no 15th.

Read a full transcript of Evan Wolfson's remarks, and watch the full speech:

After Wolfson’s speech, the audience watched the striking debut of Until We Could, a short film by Sundance directors David Lowery and Yen Tan featuring a new poem by 2013 Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco. The piece, narrated by Ben Foster and Robin Wright, is a touching and personal portrayal of the many years that same-sex couples have shared together and the shared dream that one day, all will be free to marry. The video will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

The evening’s showcase also featured a beautiful dance choreographed by MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham and performed by two members of his modern dance company, Abraham.In.Motion; a moving speech from Ron Wallen, who reflected on his 55 years of love and commitment with his husband Tom - and the marriage discrimination that followed Tom’s death in 2011 as a result of DOMA; and remarks from Freedom to Marry Board Member Barb Cox.

To close the showcase, Tony and Grammy Award-nominated composer Andrew Lippa joined Tony winner Laura Benanti and a 7-piece orchestra on stage for the debut performance of “One Day,” a gorgeous song about love, family, and respect for all.

Cheers to 10 Years was a fantastic night of celebration for supporters of Freedom to Marry. It was a reminder of how far we’ve come in this collaborative national movement, as well as a chance to reflect on Freedom to Marry’s central, indispensable role as the architect of the strategy that was, is, and will continue to be the strategy that sets the stage for a final Supreme Court ruling declaring that all Americans are free to marry the person they love.

To repeat the closing line of Evan Wolfson’s speech: It was a happy 10th anniversary party – and with the continued dedication and support of the campaign to win marriage nationwide, there won’t be need for a 15th.

Special thanks to Cheers to 10 Years Event Chairs Rob Coburn, Benjamin Dixon, Otho Kerr, Jordan Roth, and Andrew Zobler, as well as Event Committee members Noble Black, Paul Cellupica, Joseph Cerrone, Josh Kiman, Charles Myers, Seth Stuhl, and Raymond Vallejo & S. Gerald Saliman.

Photos by Caroline Sinno Photography • Video by Bond Street Video