‘One Strategy, Two Timelines’: The Pathway Forward to the freedom to marry nationwide

UPDATED 2/27: In light of the recent victories for marriage in federal court cases, Freedom to Marry has issued a new memo detailing The Pathway Forward, explaining how critical marriage litigation plays into the overall push to win marriage nationwide. 

In just the past few weeks, marriage supporters have experienced huge victories in court cases in Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio (and, UPDATED 2/27, Kentucky, Virginia, Illinois, and Texas) - with others potentially soon to come. The new memo puts these wins into the context of The Roadmap to Victory, the national strategy to win marriage for same-sex couples across the United States as soon as possible. With nearly 50 pending marriage lawsuits in 26 states across the country (see them all HERE), the courts will continue to move in these so-called "purple" and "red" states, and eventually, one of them (or a case yet to be filed) will reach the United States Supreme Court, where the justices will have the opportunity to provide national resolution and end marriage discrimination in the country once and for all.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson explained more of this insight to Buzzfeed. He said: "We know what the strategy is, we know what the path forward is, but we don’t know — and what no one knows is — the timeline. We have to operate on two timelines: one being where we’re in front of the Supreme Court sooner [possibly in the next court term that begins in October and would be expected to end in June 2015] and the other where we’re in front of the Supreme Court a little later [which he would place in the 2017 to 2019 range]. Because we don’t know, we have to do the work that’s needed to win on that latter timeline, even as we’re doing the work that’s needed to win on the 2015 timeline. So, it’s one strategy, two timelines."

In the memo, Freedom to Marry looks at why the movement in the courts is happening now:

Public support for the freedom to marry continues to grow across the country

For some time national polls have shown that a solid majority of voters support the freedom to marry for gay couples. Now, regional and state polls are reflecting similar growth in support. In a new poll released in January 2014 by Freedom to Marry, a majority (51%) of voters who live in states that deny gay couples the freedom to marry—largely in the South, Midwest, and Mountain West—support it, compared with only 41% opposed.

This is the first poll that has factored out the progress in the freedom to marry states and focused entirely on attitudes in non-freedom to marry states. The courts’ increasing willingness to uphold the Constitution’s command of equality is, in fact, catching up to, and reflecting, public opinion about the unfairness of marriage discrimination.

The Supreme Court's ruling in Windsor has provided greater constitutional clarity

The majority opinion by the Supreme Court in June 2013's Windsor v. United States struck down a central part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and powerfully refuted every rationale offered in defense of marriage discrimination.

Judges in six of the district court rulings that have come after Windsor — in Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Texas — have invoked the language and logic of Windsor, citing the case as precedent for why similar bans in the states are unconstitutional. Many more courts will do the same in the future - especially as plaintiffs in each of these cases cite the Windsor ruling in testimony, briefs, and complaints. 

Thousands of same-sex couples - from all 50 states - are marrying

Following the Windsor ruling, loving and committed couples throughout the country—including many who live in one of the 33 states that discriminate—have married (See just a few of these stories in Freedom to Marry's Story Center). The federal government, following determinations by the President and U.S. Attorney General, has moved to implement that ruling and is respecting those married couples as indeed married when it comes to qualifying for federal protections and responsibilities such as immigration and taxation, etc.—even if the couples live in states that still cling to discrimination. 

This progress at both the federal and state levels underscores the untenability of the current situation in which marriages sputter in and out like cellphone service and lawful marriages are respected by some but discriminated against by others. Such an irrational and unfair legal patchwork further strengthens the case for upholding the Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and the freedom to marry itself.

The memo concludes: "Freedom to Marry’s commitment is to continue making the same strong case for the freedom to marry in the court of public opinion as our legal advocates are making in the courts of law. Whether on the short-term or medium-term timeline, this is how we will win marriage nationwide.