Freedom to Marry Founder and President, Evan Wolfson, was interviewed Wednesday for Newsweek about his work on ending marriage discrimination. The article comes on the heels of Wolfson’s testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act.
The interview begins by focusing on Wolfson’s early life: his coming to terms with his sexuality after his time in the Peace Corps in West Africa and his thesis on the freedom to marry at Harvard Law School. He remembers that several law professors declined to be his thesis advisor because of his chosen topic. The research was conducted during a time when confusion surrounding the AIDS epidemic abounded, which allowed religious groups to spread fear on the issue. In this climate, Wolfson laid a foundation for the language of marriage equality.
In his thesis, Wolfson argued that marriage was a civil right guaranteed under the equal protection clause of the Constitution. He also touches on the idea that society has arbitrarily define gays as “wholly apart and different” and that because of this, it could also reverse this prejudice. Wolfson says, “culture is an important part of the vocabulary of marriage. We as a culture can’t say we believe in marriage, that we have the freedom to marry, and then create exclusions.”
Wolfson brought up these points and others in his testimony on Wednesday at the Senate hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act. The Judiciary Committee heard arguments on this legislation that would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which codifies marriage discrimination.