Evan Wolfson Reflects on Decade of Marriage Momentum at 'Cheers to 10 Years' Event
As most of you know, Freedom to Marry doesn’t typically do events – and spectacular events like this 10th Anniversary celebration clearly don't just happen. We have many, many thank you’s tonight.
First, thank you to the lead sponsor of tonight's event, Skyy Vodka.
Thank you to the event chairs, volunteer committee, and, of course, tonight’s spectacular artists , who have dedicated their time and luminous talent to give us this anniversary celebration. And, in particular, a big thank you to the above-and-beyond, volunteer producer who brought so much of tonight’s event together, Peter Spears.
Thank you to the Freedom to Marry board members in the room tonight, including board chairs, Barb Cox and Anne Stanback, as well Jennifer Gerarda Brown, Rob Coburn, Benjamin Dixon, Otho Kerr, and Jordan Roth.
And to the entire Freedom to Marry team that I am so lucky to lead: From my heart, thank you for what you do, not just tonight, but every day.
Don’t think I’ve forgotten all of you, [audience members]. Thank you for joining us at this 10th Anniversary party for Freedom to Marry. Our movement has a hell of a lot to celebrate.
Together, our movement has secured the freedom to marry in 17 states and our nation’s capital (up from zero literally a decade ago) – that’s 40 percent of the country! We’ve built a strong national majority for marriage (59% of Americans - now more than double the number when I was doing the Hawaii trial in the 1990’s), and majorities in every region of the country, including in the South, among young evangelicals and Republicans under age 45.
Together our movement has built irrefutable momentum to get the job done
Through a landmark triumph in the Supreme Court last year – led by my friends, Robbie Kaplan and Edie Windsor, and Mary Bonauto – together with leadership from the President and Attorney General, we changed the federal government from being the number-one discriminator against gay people to now respecting our lawful marriages even in the states that still discriminate. We’ve brought important protections to families across the country and additional constitutional clarity to our cause, and exposed the untenability of the patchwork of discrimination that still burdens families, businesses, and employers, and violates the Constitution and basic values of fairness and the Golden Rule. And in the climate we’ve created, 11 out of 11 federal judges in recent months have ruled for the freedom to marry (with zero ruling against).
Now we head into what may prove to be the penultimate chapter in the campaign to win marriage nationwide, with arguments and rulings in the federal appellate courts. And in all kinds of ways, we are showing the next wave of decision-makers – elected officials, judges, and, yes, the justices of the Supreme Court – that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.
That’s a lot to celebrate, but there’s even more.
All of this progress, this joy, this momentum, didn’t just happen. It wasn’t the product of one organization, one person, one case, one state, one battle, or even one decade.
We celebrate our movement that made this all so, a movement of non-gay and gay people and organizations taking action. Bloggers and lawyers. Donors and strategists. Protesters and clergy. Labor unions and businesses. Campaign volunteers and life-long movement activists. Kids talking to their parents across the kitchen table, and grandparents speaking out for their loved ones. Elected officials and judges.
Millions of conversations, millions of contributions. Numerous organizations, countless individual acts of courage and commitment – all part of how change comes to America.
And we celebrate tonight the Freedom to Marry strategy that - through the movement’s embrace, involvement, and investment - brought us this momentum and progress and will bring us to our goal: the freedom to marry nationwide.
Freedom to Marry was born to drive the strategy we celebrate tonight, to make of the parts a greater whole, to fill the gaps, and to wake up every day moving marriage forward, no matter how hard some of those days might be or how many at one time doubted it could be done.
Even now, with so many organizations now doing important parts of the work, with hundreds of lawyers on 65+ cases in all but 3 of the states where we don’t yet have marriage, Freedom to Marry is the only organization singularly focused on winning marriage nationwide. Through a constant balancing of leadership and collaboration, through our more than 30 operatives throughout the country, and through our credibility and our track record of creativity, resilience, and success – Freedom to Marry is eyes on the prize and feet on the ground as the marriage movement’s catalyst, coach, convener, and campaign.
Freedom to Marry’s central expertise shaped the movement’s messaging, shares the movement’s best campaign practices; and provides air-cover for the movement’s coast-to-coast ground-game. Our Digital Action Center is the social media presence and voice of state campaigns across the country, and our Press Room’s crack communications team ensures that local and diverse stories and messengers create the climate to persuade the public and decision-makers.
Freedom to Marry paved a pathway for the President’s moral leadership, and enlisted voices from conservative, Republican former Senator Alan Simpson to civil rights icons Dolores Huerta and Democratic Congressman John Lewis, all permission-givers helping more Americans to, in Lincoln’s words, think anew.
Alongside coalition campaigns we’ve convened in crucial battleground states, Freedom to Marry has spearheaded and launched, with partners, smart, diverse, and substantive national campaigns: Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, Familia es Familia. On the Democratic side, our Say I Do platform push, and just last week, on the Republican side, our campaign to Reform the Platform.
And thanks to the generosity of our supporters who understand the value of a central campaign, I am proud to say that Freedom to Marry has become the largest funder of marriage work in the country, investing more than $13 million directly each year and leveraging millions more. And I am proud to be able to say, uniquely, that every single dollar given to Freedom to Marry goes to, yes, winning marriage and the joy of spreading love and greater happiness.
Tonight we celebrate, but we also recommit to the work of finishing the job we started. You are part of the movement, part of the success, part of the strategy, part of Freedom to Marry. We need you to keep fueling our campaign, the strategy, the expertise, and the work that have brought victory within reach.
Thank you for your continuing engagement, for your tenacity, for your commitment, for your contributions -- past, present, and future.
Thank you for joining us at this 10th anniversary party for Freedom to Marry.
With your help, we are determined, there will be no 15th.