The Freedom to Marry

Author: Evan Wolfson, President and Founder of Freedom to Marry
Publication: Momentum Magazine
Publication Date: June 20th, 2012

The past few months have brought surging momentum to our campaign to win the freedom to marry.  From the President’s heartfelt and powerful embrace to the unanimous federal appellate ruling that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, we continue to make huge progress along the Roadmap to Victory, Freedom to Marry’s national strategy.  But until all loving, committed couples can share in the freedom to marry nationwide, the work is not yet done.  And the necessary work won’t just do itself.

President Obama’s description of how he – like a majority of Americans – opened his heart and changed his mind continues to reverberate.  He shared the story of talking with his own family, along with friends, staffers, and service members, and coming down on the side of Golden Rule values of respect and fairness for all families.  Many more Americans are now doing likewise.  We see majority support among Latinos, among independents as well as Democrats, and, of course, among younger voters across the spectrum.  Polls show significant increases in support among African Americans (some polls report a majority with jumps in support as large as twenty percent).  Conversations change minds and we know how to persuade the reachable-but-not-yet-reached, but we cannot be complacent.  In order to truly end marriage discrimination, we must continue to grow and diversify the majority for marriage by talking about why marriage matters to same-sex couples and their families.  There is no marriage without engagement.

These conversations are particularly important with the freedom to marry on the November ballot in four states.  In Minnesota we face a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at banning marriage, while in Maine, we seek to affirmatively win the freedom to marry, after losing three years ago by only 30,000 votes.  In Washington and Maryland, anti-gay forces are working to overturn the freedom to marry laws passed earlier this year.  These battles give us a chance to take away our opponents’ last talking point – that as a minority, we cannot win a majority vote – and unfair as it may be to have a fundamental freedom and basic right up for a vote, this is our challenge.  We are up to it – but only if we urgently invest time and money in the conversations and campaigns needed to win.  Freedom to Marry is deeply embedded in the campaigns as well as the persuasion that creates the national climate for victory.

In Washington, D.C., Freedom to Marry’s federal program works to repeal DOMA and make the case for marriage to government officials, opinion-leaders, and political operatives in Washington, DC.  In January, we launched Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, bringing together a broad-based and nonpartisan group of mayors from across the nation – from small towns to some of the nation’s largest cities – to talk about how the freedom to marry strengthens communities.  Freedom to Marry is also a leader of the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a diverse group of nearly 70 organizations working together to repeal DOMA, and regularly hosts salons to engage Democratic, Republican, and independent opinion-leaders and operatives in conversations about why marriage matters to same-sex couples.

As we lay the foundation for overturning DOMA, whether through Congress or the courts, we must continue to make the case for marriage in the states and in the court of public opinion.   Freedom to Marry this year launched "Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry," working together with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) to tell the stories of service members who, though they can serve openly, cannot serve equally.  Lesbian and gay service members are now able to marry, but because of DOMA, their families are denied more than 1138 protections, from military medical insurance and survivor benefits to simply being able to enter military bases or live in military housing like any other military family.

We have the winning formula and we’ve got momentum… but victory will come only if we seize the moment.   For 2012, that means continuing to win more states, winning at the ballot, and winning more hearts and minds.   The President, the NAACP, the American Medical Association, mayors, business and labor leaders, clergy, and a majority of Americans are now marching with us on Freedom to Marry’s Roadmap to Victory.  It’s up to us now, to keep the pace and overcome the barriers, as we bring the country home.