Tough It Out, Valerie Jarrett
November 11, 2014
Editors' Note: This post was originally published by Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson on The Huffington Post, a reflection of Valerie Jarrett's key role in moving the country forward on marriage as part of our broader civil rights arc.
Among many disappointing outcomes of the midterm elections has been a spate of scapegoating and attacks on the White House, and, in particular, one of the President’s longest-serving and closest advisors, Valerie Jarrett. The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber ponies up a litany of complaints and criticisms, mostly anonymous, and in a piece in Politico, Carol Felsenthal calls on the President to “Fire Valerie Jarrett.” But the Valerie Jarrett I have come to know and work with has had vision, skill, patience, and passion – and has been a key engine of this Administration’s getting important, life-changing, legacy-shaping things done.
On behalf of the President, and in effective coordination with the Attorney General and others, Ms. Jarrett has been crucial in our work to secure the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples across the country. Under this President, gay and lesbian families have seen the Administration play a significant role in guiding the country to the right side of history on marriage. From the Department of Justice’s decision to embrace heightened scrutiny of sexual orientation discrimination and then end the defense of the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act, to President Obama’s historic declaration of support of the freedom to marry, to the Administration’s faithful implementation of the Supreme Court victory last year, Valerie Jarrett was deeply involved at every step. I know because I worked with her throughout.
There were many moments over the years and our several interactions when Ms. Jarrett had direct questions for my colleagues and me, and when we engaged in a real give and take in which she heard from me arguments, perspectives, and requests that may not have been welcome. Every one of those exchanges, however, was productive and real, and I always came away feeling I was dealing with a true and effective representative of the President and his policies and a committed and crucial advocate for the vision of the country that we’ve been able to bring forward.
I have dealt with many figures in many administrations over many chapters, now, during my decades working to secure full rights and equal treatment for gay people. Valerie Jarrett has been the one who has best fulfilled the role of agent of change from within, while most effectively engaging those of us working for change and pushing for leadership outside. It is a tribute to the President and First Lady that they have placed trust in Valerie Jarrett. My own trust in her has resulted in White House leadership and courageous decisions that have made America a better country.