Staff Spotlight: Jeffrey Correa, Development Director

Freedom to Marry has a dedicated and diverse staff working each day to secure the freedom to marry nationwide, and we want to help you get to know each of us a little bit better. This week, we hear from Jeffrey Correa, Freedom to Marry's Development Director. Before coming to Freedom to Marry, Jeffrey worked as a fundraising professional for a wide range of institutions, including the University of California, Santa Cruz;the Nebraska AIDS Project; Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County; and the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. He married his husband, Jean-Pierre, in 2008 in California, and they now live in New York.

1) Where are you from, and what brought you to New York City?
I'm originally from Washington state but spent the 12 years prior to moving to New York last year in Santa Cruz, CA. I came to New York to join the Freedom to Marry team and because my husband wanted to move back to the place he considers home.

2) Tell us about your experience in the Air Force. What were your responsibilities, and what did you learn?
I served for six years as an Arabic linguist. How I experienced the Air Force was influenced significantly by serving under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," [the military policy that prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly from 1993-2011]. So, in many ways, it was very hard and demoralizing. But, I met a lot of really amazing people and I loved being a part of the linguist community. I learned what hard work really is, and I learned how to be a part of -and sometimes lead - a team of very different people in a way that brings everyone together around a common purpose and goal and how to play to people's unique strengths. Having worked hard with many others on the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I feel like I've healed a lot of old wounds, and I'm really proud of the many men and woman who serve today openly and honestly, and made the implementation of repeal the non-event we all knew it would be.

3) What do you like to do in your free time?

What's free time? Well, that's very different now than it was just a year ago. We were very into the California lifestyle. We were into the food and wine scene in Northern California, as we owned a wine store. I spent a lot of time out in the country and in the mountains on my bike. Now I'm getting to know New York, so we're taking in museums, Broadway shows, exploring interesting neighborhoods, and doing a lot of eating since the restaurants here are fantastic. We're also just like any old married couple and we enjoy spending time at home with our dog or exploring our new neighborhood (Williamsburg, Brooklyn).

4) What has been your favorite "freedom to marry" moment - a time in the movement that has particularly resonated with you?

Well, I'd get in a lot of trouble if I didn't say that my favorite "freedom to marry" moment is my own wedding. We got married in California two days before Proposition 8 was passed, and it really was the most meaningful experience of my life. We had our closest family and friends there, a lot people traveled from far away on short notice. Our whole community celebrated with us - one friend made the cake, another did the catering, friends who owned a winery gave us the space for the day, it was all very special. It immediately changed who we were to ourselves and each other in a very profound way that we did not really expect, and we work hard every day to invest in our marriage and keep it strong and healthy.

5) Why does the freedom to marry matter to you?

I think that it's important for people who want to be treated equally to expect to be treated equally and not accept less. Even now when people say things like, "Are you married in Texas?" or some other place I respond with, "I'm married everywhere I go... that doesn't change based on geography." It's about fairness, it's about respect for the most important relationship you'll experience in your lifetime, and it really comes down to who we are as a human community and how do we express our best selves and our most deeply-held values. I'm really grateful to do this work, and I'm excited that we've got so much momentum. Hearts and minds are changing every day.

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