Evan Wolfson to Receive Barnard Medal of Distinction Alongside President Obama


President Obama, Freedom to Marry Founder to Share the Stage and Honors at Commencement Ceremony on May 14

Press Contact:
Jackie Yodashkin
Communications Director

NEW YORK – On Monday, May 14, 2012, President Barack Obama will deliver the Commencement Address at Barnard College’s graduation ceremony and receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the school’s highest honor, also being presented to Freedom to Marry’s Founder and President Evan Wolfson.

"I am deeply moved to join with President Obama to celebrate the next generation of leaders coming up among Barnard women, and to share the Barnard Medal of Distinction with the President,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry.  “And when I get the chance to whisper in the President's ear, I will thank him for the important steps he has already taken in support of the freedom to marry, applaud him for speaking in such personal terms about the journey he and so many Americans have made to understand who gay families are and why marriage matters, and encourage him to complete that journey and join the national majority for marriage.”  

The ceremony will take place on Monday, May 14, at 12:30 p.m. on Columbia University’s South Lawn, where the President will address approximately 600 members of the Class of 2012 in a speech to be broadcast live on www.barnard.edu.  Others being honored include Helene D. Gayle, the President and CEO of CARE USA, and Barnard professor of chemistry Sally Chapman.

Previous recipients of the Barnard Medal of Distinction include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Arthur Ashe, Walter Cronkite, Mario, Cuomo, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and legendary actress Meryl Streep – and also former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye, who will present the Medal of Distinction to Wolfson.

Wolfson, dubbed the “Godfather of Gay Marriage” by Newsweek, is the Founder and President of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry.  After getting a BA in History from Yale, Wolfson served in the Peace Corps in West Africa and then earned his JD from Harvard Law School.  In 2004, TIME magazine named Wolfson one of the "100 most influential people in the world." 

Prior to founding Freedom to Marry in 2003, Wolfson launched the ongoing global marriage movement as co-counsel in the landmark Hawaii marriage case, Baehr v. Miike.  He also contributed to the legal teams in the Vermont case that led to the creation of "civil unions" and Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which led to marriage in Massachusetts.  In 1976, he was a Senate intern for Vice President Joe Biden, who this past Sunday came out in support of the freedom to marry.  Wolfson argued before the Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale and has taught as an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School.  Wolfson married his longtime partner, Dr. Cheng He, this past October after winning the freedom to marry in New York.

Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.