Marc Solomon honored with Congressman Gerry E. Studds Visibility Award
March 12, 2013
This weekend, on Saturday, March 9, Freedom to Marry's National Campaign Director Marc Solomon was presented with the Congressman Gerry E. Studds Visibility Award. The award, presented by Fenway Health at their annual Men's Event, is designed to "honor individuals of integrity and selflessness who embody the spirit of service and provide positive leadership for the LGBT community."
Marc was presented with the award - which is named for our nation's first openly gay member of Congress - by Steve and Barbara Grossman. Deval Patrick, the Governor of Massachusetts, congratulated Marc in a video interview before Marc's speech. Marc worked closely with Gov. Patrick during his tenure at MassEquality, the statewide LGBT organization in Massachusetts, through which he led the effort to defeat two anti-gay constitutional amendments that would have stripped same-sex couples of the freedom to marry. In the video, Gov. Patrick explained, "In the fight for justice, common cause, inclusion, and fundamental fairness, Marc Solomon has earned this recognition." Watch the full video of Gov. Patrick's remarks below.
During his acceptance speech for the award, Marc referenced the campaign to win and secure marriage in Massachusetts. He said,
We persevered ... because marriage - and our dignity - mattered. We weren't going to let anyone wrest our freedoms away from us without a battle to the end. So we stood up and overcame our fears, we overcame our worry about rejection, and we stood up, and we were visible, and we were counted. We came out in our churches and synagogues. We met with our state lawmakers. ... We made our case to them by sharing our lives with them, by explaining why marriage matters to us.
Check out the entire speech from our National Campaign Director.
Full Remarks: Marc Solomon
Recipient of Congressman Gerry E. Studds Visibility Award, March 9, 2013
Thank you to Steve and Barbara Grossman for that incredibly warm and generous introduction. Our community could not have two more loyal or dedicated friends and allies. Thank you to my friend, Governor Deval Patrick, for the kind words. Thank you, Mayor Tom Menino. We are lucky to have so many champions for our community here in Massachusetts.
First, I want to acknowledge my father, Mel Solomon, who is joining me here tonight. My father inculcated in me much of my passion for social justice and political activism. And he's still at it, making the case, more often than not for our causes. Last year, my Dad went through the phone book and called most of the Chick-Fil-A's in our hometown of Kansas City to give them a piece of his mind about the owner's bigotry. Thank you, Dad, for standing up for us, and for me. I love you.
I want to thank Dr. Steve Boswell and the great institution that is Fenway Health. Fenway has provided a safe and caring space, as well as cutting-edge medical care, for our community for decades, through the horrific years at the height of the AIDS epidemic to right now. For nearly the entire time I lived in Boston, I went to Fenway for my health needs, and it's the best, most comfortable, most positive health experience I've had.
Of course, I want to honor the memory of Congressman Gerry Studds. I'd like to acknowledge his widower, my friend and fellow fighter for the freedom to marry, Dean Hara.
Gerry Studds was a man of profound courage and strength. The first openly gay member of Congress, Congressman Studds - an "acknowledged homosexual," as the mainstream press called it back when he came out in 1983 - was visible. He stood up and fought for our community without shame, within the halls of power in Washington, D.C. and over the airwaves, before many of us were ready to fight.
Speaking about our community's civil rights struggles in 1994, Congressman Studds spoke of how visibility is a precondition to our ability to make gains. He said, "Success ... rests on the ability of each of us in our own lives to do whatever it is that we have to do to be comfortable with ourselves to the point where we have sufficient self-respect to go to our elected representatives. ... Until we're able literally to stand up for ourselves, I think it's a bit naïve to expect a lot of others to be willing to stand up for us....So we have a long way to go."
But, he said, "We're going to get there. No doubt about it."
Seven courageous couples in Massachusetts stood up and were counted. They went to their city clerk's office and when they were denied marriage licenses, they took their case to court. One of those couples, Rob Compton and David Wilson - who was my board chair at MassEquality - is with us here tonight.
And on that glorious day in November 2003, when our Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same-sex couples could not be denied the freedom to marry, our opponents rose with ferocity to take it away. They rose from the Vatican, to the White House, from our governor's office, to the vast majority of Democratic offices here at home and in Washington, D.C. - people who we ordinarily considered our allies but who wouldn't say that we deserved the freedom to marry. We had very few true friends, and we were isolated.
And yet the reason we persevered is because marriage - and our dignity - mattered. We weren't going to let anyone wrest our freedoms away from us without a battle to the end. So we stood up and overcame our fears, we overcame our worry about rejection, and we stood up, and we were visible, and we were counted. We came out in our churches and synagogues. We met with our state lawmakers. Over and over and over again. We invited them into our homes, when honestly, that was the last thing many of us wanted to do. We made our case to them by sharing our lives with them, by explaining why marriage matters to us.
When we didn't get the answer we liked, some of us even had the courage to take on the political establishment and run against them, like my dear friend and former Fenway staffer, State Representative Carl Sciortino.
When we began our battle to protect the Goodridge decision in 2003, we had about 50 out of 200 state legislators with us. By June of 2007, three-and-a-half years later, we had more than 150 out of 200 with us, just enough to keep our opponents below the 25% threshold they needed to send an amendment to the ballot.
And through our visibility, we showed not only Massachusetts, but America, the strength of our families, and the power of our love.
And look at where we are today, nearly 10 years later. Nine states have extended the freedom to marry to loving and committed same-sex couples, with more soon to follow. We have majority support nationwide. A President who is our fierce advocate. Growing bipartisan support. And in just over two weeks, we'll be making our case for the freedom to marry, and for an end to marriage discrimination, before the highest court in the land.
Together, right here in Massachusetts, we ignited a fire that is impossible to extinguish, one that says that our love is as strong and as good as anyone's.
Nineteen years ago, Congressman Studds challenged us to be visible, to stand up for ourselves. Here in Massachusetts, we did it. And look at what we've accomplished together.