Top 10 Freedom to Marry Moments in 2013
December 24, 2013
Editors' Note: This post was authored by Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. It was originally published on The Huffington Post.
What a year for the freedom to marry! In 2013 we racked up wins at an unparalleled pace, reflecting and accelerating the momentum we have worked so hard to build over so long. From groundbreaking rulings at the Supreme Court to state victories in nearly every part of the country to historic levels of public support, same-sex couples and their families can share in the freedom to marry more than ever before.
As we look ahead to the remaining years (and yes, I believe it’s years, not decades) it will take to finish the job, we will see a new pace and some new challenges, but the Roadmap to Victory national strategy that brought us to this point of progress is the same strategy that will bring it all home. We must continue creating a climate demonstrating that America is ready for marriage, so that when the next case reaches the steps of the Supreme Court, the justices are encouraged to bring the country to national resolution, securing the freedom to marry and full respect for marriage nationwide. The Roadmap strategy says we create that climate by working simultaneously on three tracks – winning more states, growing the majority of Americans who support marriage, and fully ending federal marriage discrimination.
On all three tracks, Freedom to Marry has set forth targets for building the critical mass needed for victory, including, by the end of 2016: a majority of Americans living in a freedom to marry state (up from 38% now), public support at greater than 60% (up from 55% now), and an end to federal marriage discrimination (fully repealing DOMA and codifying the principle that marriages must be respected across all federal programs, even in states that discriminate). The targets are ambitious, but attainable, if we do the work.
Let’s take the next two weeks to savor and celebrate how far we’ve come– and then in 2014 let’s redouble our work to finish the job. For now, here are the Top 10 Marriage Moments of 2013:
10. Anniversaries and Milestones in Massachusetts, Hawaii, and More
2013 started off as a year of anniversaries and reminder of how far the freedom to marry movement has come since we started. We marked a decade since the ruling in Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, the state high court decision that made Massachusetts the first state in the nation where loving and committed couples can share in the freedom to marry. 2013 also marked 20 years since the Hawaii Supreme Court’s historic Baehr ruling, which launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry. We celebrated that big anniversary by bringing the freedom to marry to Hawaii in a joyous ceremony once the first legislature to pass an anti-marriage amendment (in the ‘90s) resoundingly voted for the freedom to marry in November.
The anniversaries marked enormous turning points in the movement’s history, but for me – and for many others – they were personal as well. 2013 marked 30 years since I published my Harvard Law School thesis on the freedom to marry, 20 years since I served as co-counsel in Baehr, and 10 years since I launched Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide. They mark the time and work it takes to change the world, and underscore that if you do the work and stick with it over time, the world can change.
9. More Republicans Join the Cause
As the freedom to marry has moved firmly into the mainstream, we saw a historic number of prominent Republicans moving to support. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) spoke poignantly of the hope he has that his son Will will be able to spend his life with someone that he loves. Joining Portman in favor of the freedom to marry were Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Former Republican Governors Jon Huntsman and Tom Ridge announced their support, as have a who’s who of under-40 operatives from the Romney and McCain campaigns, working with Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. Polling showed that 52% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters under the age of 50 now support the freedom to marry. And to show how far we’ve come, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (a Reagan appointee) performed a wedding at the Supreme Court for two men from Washington, while former President George H. W. Bush served as an official witness at the marriage of two female friends in Maine.
8. Majority of U.S. Senate Supports the Freedom to Marry
In addition to the three new Republican supporters, nearly every Democrat in the Senate also now embraces the freedom to marry, most impressively the vast majority of those who represent “red” states. Democratic senators from Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana—and a couple from the swing states of North Carolina and Florida—all announced their support in 2013, leaving only three Democrats not yet on record as in favor. With part of DOMA still in place, building the momentum in Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act is an important part of the work still to do. Read all of the Senators' statements of support HERE.
7. Ascendance of Pope Francis and a New Tone on Gay People and Marriage
The rise of Pope Francis, named TIME’s Person of the Year in 2013, and his pronouncements to date about gay people and the Church’s priorities, offered hope that the Catholic hierarchy will deemphasize fighting the freedom to marry and end its investments in anti-gay campaigns. Already, several Catholic lawmakers in Illinois invoked the Pope’s poignant words, “Who am I to judge?" in justifying their own votes in support of the freedom to marry. Elements in the hierarchy continue to resist the new direction, but the Pope’s words and some actions offer the possibility that the Church may finally get in step with the 60+percent support for the freedom to marry among American Catholics.
6. President Obama Extols the Freedom to Marry in Inaugural Address
In his second Inaugural Address in January, President Obama exalted our struggle for the freedom to marry as part of the American project, our commitment to equality and freedom. The president’s words reverberated around the globe: "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall… [O]ur journey is not complete … until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." The Address capped President Obama’s evolution and embrace of the freedom to marry, including his role as the first sitting president to announce support of marriage for same-sex couples; his administration’s refusal to defend DOMA; his outspoken support for specific campaigns in Illinois, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington and more; and the Administration’s swift and strong implementation of federal respect for marriages following the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.
5. Freedom to Marry Makes International Gains Around the World
Our global momentum continues, with France, Uruguay, New Zealand, and Great Britain enacting marriage laws in 2013. Additionally, Brazil's high court affirmed that government offices have no standing to reject same-sex couples from marriage, solidifying Brazil as a freedom to marry nation. Including the United States and Mexico – in both of which same-sex couples can marry – the roster of countries where gay couples can share in the freedom to marry climbed to 18 countries on 5 continents, with more likely victories ahead in 2014. Learn more about the freedom to marry abroad on our International resource page.
4. Record Majorities for Marriage
In 2013 some polls showed support for the freedom to marry as high as 58% among the American public. Within specific demographics, these numbers are even higher: 62% percent of Catholics, 63% of Latinos, 64% of young evangelicals, 53% of African-Americans, and 52% of Republican voters under 50 are on board. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported a plurality in favor of the freedom to marry – in Georgia! As a polling analysis for Freedom to Marry by the lead pollsters for President Obama and President Bush pointed out, opposition is now dwindling, isolated to only a few holdout demographics. (Above GIF: Freedom to Marry lights up Times Square with a message of love)
3. Obama Administration Moves Swiftly and Strongly to Implement Federal Respect for Married Couples – Even in Discriminating States
Freedom to Marry and our partners, particularly our movement legal groups, made a strong case to the Administration that, in implementing the DOMA ruling, it should respect all marriages legally entered into, regardless of where a couple lives. And that’s exactly what the Administration has been doing. For federal purposes, a marriage is a marriage, even if a specific state doesn’t respect the marriage within its borders. This correct legal standard, in fulfillment of the Constitution’s command, made lives better for committed same-sex couples and their families throughout the country. And it changed the federal government from the number-one discriminator against gay families to now putting its moral and legal weight on the side of our families – and the freedom to marry – throughout the country.
2. We Win the Freedom to Marry in a Record 9 More States
The freedom to marry movement won more states in 2013 than ever before, more than doubling the percentage of the country living in a freedom to marry state: California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Minnesota -- and now New Mexico and Utah. Freedom to Marry is proud to have been a leading player in these state victories, helping build campaigns and raising and channeling the resources needed to ensure that strategic persuasion and effective advocacy work took place on the ground.
Along with long-sought and hard-fought legislative and litigation wins in many of the states, it was gratifying to see the restoration of the freedom to marry in California. Four and a half years after Proposition 8 stripped away the freedom to marry, couples in our nation’s largest state again are able to marry
1. Supreme Court Strikes Down Core of DOMA
In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court gutted the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, ending the exclusion of legally married same-sex couples from more than 1,000 federal protections. By 5-4, the Court held that, in America, we neither have second-class citizens nor second-class marriages. And with her compelling personal story tracing much of the history of our movement and its progress over decades, Edie Windsor touched hearts and exposed injustice, a perfect example of the power of individual stories in creating change. Justice Kennedy’s soaring majority opinion, in which he invoked the word “dignity” nine times, powerfully refuted every argument made in favor of the exclusion of gay couples from marriage – leaving Justice Scalia apoplectic. Justice Scalia’s dissent went so far as to show how if you take Justice Kennedy’s opinion and “strike and replace” a few key words, it leads inexorably to the freedom to marry nationwide. Freedom to Marry rarely agrees with Justice Scalia, but when he’s right, he’s right. Through our Roadmap to Victory strategy, we intend to make that happen, building a critical mass of states and a critical mass of public opinion by 2016 to ensure that the next case to reach the Supreme Court delivers the freedom to marry nationwide, finishing the job.