IN THE NEWS: Reflecting on 2013, and looking ahead to 2014
Dec 04, 2013 at 04:30 pm
As we enter the last month of the year, it's an opportune time to reflect on how far the world has moved forward on marriage in 2013 and how we're teeing up for future wins in 2014 and beyond. In the past few weeks, discussion about the freedom to marry has thrived in some of the country's most widely read publications - and Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson has been on hand to answer questions, offer insight, and provide perspective on this historic year for marriage and what's next in the campaign to win marriage nationwide. Check out excerpts from four key stories below, and don't miss the full articles:
The New Yorker
Evan speaks with Richard Socarides about this year's amazing victories - including the importance of the win last month in Hawaii, the state that kicked off the marriage movement 20 years ago - and lays out how we'll achieve a final, nationwide victory.
Regarding the timeline of when we'll be able to return to the United States Supreme Court and urge the Court to find that there is a federal constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples, Evan explained, "Nobody can answer that precisely." He added, "There are now some forty-four cases in nineteen or twenty states moving forward. And one of them may be the case, or it may be some other case down the road. We can encourage the Court to take the right case at the right time and do the right thing—within a matter of years, not decades."
Richard also asked Evan for his insight on Americans - marriage supporters, commentators, and even opponents - who say that the freedom to marry nationwide is "inevitable."
"You know - ten minutes ago, many of those same people were saying it was impossible. Now they are saying it's inevitable," Evan said before clarifying, "The truth of the matter is: it was never either. Let’s not leave out the part where we do the work and actually win. We can win, and we will win. Our job is to make it happen as soon as we can."
Last month, Evan participated in a panel at the Creative Artists Agency alongside How I Met Your Mother actor Neil Patrick Harris and openly gay NBA player Jason Collins about Hollywood's role in the marriage movement. After, he spoke with Variety Senior Editor Ted Johnson on the nuances of Hollywood's impact on public support for the freedom to marry.
“I don’t think it is as simple as Hollywood does a really good movie, and Hollywood does a really good TV show, and everyone changes their mind,” Evan told Variety. “Obviously, it doesn’t work that way. What really changes people’s minds over time is personal conversations with people they trust….but Will & Grace and Ellen DeGeneres and others who are out there create a climate that encourages people to have those conversations."
Television shows have markedly influenced culture in recent years - with shows like Glee, Modern Family, and Grey's Anatomy depicting healthy relationships between same-sex couples - and their wide viewership certainly opens the audience up to these discussions. Evan explained, "No one is better at telling stories and sparking conversation than Hollywood. So that climate, that air cover of storytelling and engaging people to think anew, is what enables the ground game of the personal conversations and the legal and political work to succeed."
This year also marked two landmark anniversaries in the movement to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide: 20 years ago, in May 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court became the first appellate in world history to rule in favor of same-sex couples; and 10 years ago, in November 2003, the Massachusetts high court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and extended marriage protections to same-sex couples across the state.
To celebrate the milestones, Evan Wolfson, co-counsel in the Hawaii case Baehr v. Lewin and Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and lead counsel in the MA case Goodridge v. Dept. of Heatlh, published an op-ed in USA Today. The piece reflects on how far we've come since these landmark rulings and how we'll achieve national resolution.
"As we celebrate anniversaries and create new milestones, let's be sure not to take our victory lap too soon," Evan and Mary write in the article. "The arc of history bends toward justice, but we need to get there, and whether we get there in five years or 15 also makes an enormous difference. Loving and committed couples who do the work of marriage in their everyday lives and who have made a commitment in life deserve that commitment under law as well – and not just in Massachusetts and Hawaii, but throughout our country. It's time to finish the job."
The New York Times
Last month, during an exciting Special Session in Hawaii, the state House and Senate voted in favor of a bill to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples across the state, and Governor Neil Abercrombie signed it into law. Just this week, the law took effect and couples began marrying.
The victory in Hawaii was a win two full decades in the making - in 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry was discriminatory, a ruling that threw into motion the country's long national conversation over the freedom to marry.
Erik Eckholm of The New York Times spoke with many of the key players in the 1993 decision, including Dan Foley, the counsel in the Hawaii case, Steven H. Levinson, the Hawaii Supreme Court justice who wrote the favorable decision in Baehr v. Lewin, and Evan Wolfson, who joined Dan (pictured together, above) as co-counsel for the world's first full-fledged trial of gay couples' freedom to marry in 1996.