Meet the honorary co-chairs of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry

Today, Freedom to Marry, in partnership with 12 Southern equality organizations, launched Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, a new campaign that will amplify the voices of marriage supporters in the South. We are proud to present this new bipartisan organizing effort alongside 13 honorary co-chairs. Read all about the co-chairs, who hail from nine of the 14 states involved in Southerners for the Freedom to Marry:

Patricia Todd (D), State Representative from Alabama

Since 2006, Rep. Patricia Todd has served in the Alabama House of Representatives as the first openly gay legislator in the state. She has spoken out often about equality for LGBT people in Alabama and has made the case for the freedom to marry in her state often. In September 2013, she married her longtime partner Jennifer in Provincetown, Mass., and she spoke about what it meant for her to be legally married and have that license disrespected by the state she serves each and every day. She said about the June 2013 Supreme Court decision striking down the central part of DOMA, "I was waiting for them to make this decision, and I felt they were going to make the right decision. It's a good day and now we can move forward. You can't have 50 different sets of laws about this issue. The court left open a way for those of us who have been left behind."

Harry Thomason & Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, TV Producers from Arkansas

Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason are television producers who hail from Arkansas and Missouri, respectively. Together, they produced Designing Women, the CBS sitcom about the workers in an interior design firm in the South, and are good friends with President Bill Clinton. They have spoken out often in support of equality for LGBT people. Most recently, Linda produced Bridegroom, the moving 2013 documentary featuring the story of Shane Bitney Crone and the love of his life, Thomas Lee Bridegroom, whose life was cut tragically short by a fatal accident.

Lioneld Jordan (D), Mayor of Fayetteville, Arkansas

Mayor Jordan has served as the mayor of Fayetteville, AR since 2008. Last year, he became the first mayor in Arkansas to sign on as a Mayor for the Freedom to Marry

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), U.S. Congresswoman in Florida

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has been a vocal supporter for the LGBT community and the freedom to marry for many years. In 2011 she became the first Republican co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would fully overturn federal marriage discrimination, and since then, she has fought bravely for same-sex couples and their families. 

Mayor Kasim Reed (D), Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed attended the launch of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry this morning. He signed on as a Mayor for the Freedom to Marry in December 2012, saying: "Today marks an important day as I announce my support for marriage equality. It is well known that I have gone through a good bit of reflection on this issue, but listening to the stories of so many people that I know and care about has strengthened my belief that marriage is a fundamental right for everyone. Loving couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, should have the right to marry whomever they want. By signing this resolution, I pledge my support to marriage equality for same-sex couples, consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. ... I believe in tolerance and acceptance, regardless of a person's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. That creed has been a guiding force for me throughout my life, as reflected by my actions and votes as a lifelong Democrat and elected official in the state of Georgia for more than 14 years."

Rep. John Lewis (D), U.S. Congressman in Georgia

Congressman John Lewis, civil rights hero and legend, kicked off Southerners for the Freedom to Marry in a new video, where he shared his thoughts on why marriage matters. In the video, he explains: "I look forward to the day, not just in the state of Georgia, but all across the American South and all across our country - when the question of being free to love in love and marry whoever you will please will no longer be an issue. ... And that day will come! It will come in America, in our lifetime."

Lance Bass, musician and author from Mississippi

Musician and author Lance Bass has long been a vocal advocate for the freedom to marry and for LGBT equality. He hails from Laurel, Mississippi, and in September 2013, he became engaged to marry his boyfriend Michael Turchin. 

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt (D), Mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Mayor Kleinschmidt serves as the mayor of Chapel Hill, NC. He has served on the Chapel Hill Town Council since 2001 and is a strong and vocal supporter of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. 

Rep. James Clyburn (D), Congressman in South Carolina

Rep. Clyburn has served in the United States House of Representatives since 1993, and he now serves as the Assistant Democratic Leader. He signed on as a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would fully end federal marriage discrimination, in 2012. He explained his support, saying, ""I, like the president, have evolved to a point of marriage equality. I have not always been there. I grew up in a parsonage, a fundamentalist Christian parsonage, and I grew up with that indoctrination. And I have grown to the point that I believe that we have evolved to marriage equality ... If we consider this to be a civil right — and I do — I don’t think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach. I think that we should have a national policy on this."

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D), Congressman in Texas

Last year Rep. Castro was elected to the United States House of Representatives after serving in the Texas legislature for over a decade. 

Mark McKinnon, Chief media advisor to President George W. Bush from Texas

Mark McKinnon works as Global Vice-Chairman of Hill & Knowlton Strategies, an international communications consultancy, and serves as the President of Maverick Media. He has served as an adviser to many political leaders, including President George W. Bush and Republican presidential nominee John McCain. He is a strong supporter of marriage, explaining: "As a conservative, I don't believe you or I or the government can tell people who they can love or marry. Freedom means freedom for everyone, not just for some. That's why I'm a southerner for the freedom to marry. And the political reality is that the marriage wedge has lost its edge. This train has left the station and we all need to get onboard.”

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D) in Virginia

Senator Tim Kaine took office as a United States Senator from Virginia in 2013; he previously served as governor of the state from 2006 until 2010. Last year, he announced his support for the freedom to marry as the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in two landmark cases in March 2013. He said, "I believe all people, regardless of sexual orientation, should be guaranteed the full rights to the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage under the Constitution. I hope the Supreme Court affirms that principle."

Learn more about Southerners for the Freedom to Marry