What Is Marriage Essay By Evan Wolfson

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By Evan Wolfson

Advancing the Freedom to Marry in America
American Bar Association's Human Rights Magazine
Summer 2009 Edition
"As the nation celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Stonewall, leading advocates, Mary L. Bonauto and Evan Wolfson, examine how the freedom to marry movement began; what work and events have shaped its progress, especially in the last year; and action steps for future progress. (Link to pdf, article on p.11)

NY Times Letter to the Editor by Evan Wolfson
New York Times
October 28, 2009
Evan Wolfson writes to the editor, "The pivotal exchange in one of the lawsuits now challenging the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage shows that the opponents of gay people's freedom to marry still can't give a real answer to the key question posed in yet another court by yet another judge: "What would be the harm of permitting gay men and lesbians to marry?"... The reason smart lawyers like Mr. Cooper don't give a better answer to why marriage discrimination should be allowed to continue is that there isn't one."

Respect for Marriage Act Introduced in Congress: Time to Dump "DOMA"
The Huffington Post
September 16, 2009
"Upon introduction in Congress of a bill to overturn the discriminatory so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” Evan Wolfson writes, “the Respect for Marriage Act would fix a grievous wrong that plays out every day in concrete injuries.”

Freedom to Marry in the Supreme Court: How to Make the Timing Right
New York Times Room for Debate Blog
August 18, 2009
In response to the question, "Is this the right time to go to a conservative Supreme Court [with the freedom to marry]?" Evan Wolfson writes: “The best way to maximize the chances for a just ruling by the court is not just by hiring good lawyers, writing smart briefs, or, even, being right. What’s needed is creating the climate that enables justices to do the right thing.”

Call to Action in California – How to Win Marriage Back
Straight Talk on Marriage Blog
August 13, 2009
Evan Wolfson writes, “As someone 100% committed to winning the freedom to marry nationwide as soon as possible, I am very excited by Equality California’s report on the work already underway to restore the freedom to marry in California in 2012. To win marriage back, we have a lot to do, using every precious day between now and the election. EQCA’s roadmap to victory in 2012 offers everyone committed to winning marriage back a chance to pull together and tackle the tasks without wasting a moment.”

Winning the Freedom to Marry? Cue the Attack on the Gays!
The Huffington Post
April 13, 2009
"The millions of dollars that NOM and its backers threaten to spend fostering yet another cultural and political war against gay people and threatening civil rights protections would be better spent addressing the real problems facing all our families today. What's truly scary is they don't seem to be feeling that love."

Vermont continues Iowa's freedom to marry momentum
Google News Comments
April 8, 2009
Evan Wolfson writes, "By affirming that 'marriage makes a word of difference', Vermont sent a message to the California Supreme Court, now weighing whether to uphold Prop 8 and its temporary removal of the freedom to marry in favor of separate partnership for gay couples, and to the legislatures in New Hampshire and New Jersey, each considering bills to end exclusion from marriage in place of the separate-and-unequal civil unions to which same-sex couples are now relegated."

Iowa Shows Freedom to Marry's Time Has Come and Place is Everywhere
Google News Comments
April 3, 2009
Evan Wolfson writes, "Elected officials and judges should follow the Iowa court's unanimous lead—equal protection means equal, and all should share that equality in the precious freedom to marry. And all of us can help them do their job by doing ours—speaking out now to the people in our lives who need to hear from us, explaining why marriage matters and helping them push past their discomfort and rising to fairness."

Will the California Supreme Court Strike Down Prop 8, or "Willy-Nilly Disregard" Its Duty?
Huffington Post
March 31, 2009
In a message to the California Supreme Court, now weighing a set of challenges to Prop 8, Evan Wolfson cautions the Court against a ruling that would not only go against "the bedrock principle of American constitutional government," but would also minimize its historic 2008 decision in Marriage Cases, which set forth such truths as "the fundamental nature of the freedom to marry [and], the way in which exclusion from marriage itself denies equality and imposes the stigma of second-class citizenship."

States are talking about marriage equality. Are you?
Google News Comments
March 6, 2009
Evan Wolfson writes, "With legislatures, courts, and even the electorate weighing the need to end the exclusion of gay couples from marriage, there is greater opportunity, and greater urgency, for each one of us to promote conversations about why marriage equality matters. The more people talk to others, the more they come to see there is no good reason to deny couples who've made a personal commitment in life, the equal commitment under law that is marriage."

Can Marriage Equality Be Compromised?
February 27, 2009
Evan Wolfson writes, "The core of the real opposition we face is not really about marriage -- it's about gay. The same forces against our freedom to marry are also against its products, which include civil union and partnership. We will never give enough ground to appease them, nor should we... Why surrender the moral high ground we are successfully claiming -- with principle, persuasion, patience, and persistence -- for an illusory common ground when, as witness the most recent and vociferous rejection of even civil unions and any such half-measure by the so-called moderate new chair of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, this is a nonstarter."

Make your voice heard during Freedom to Marry Week
Google News Comments
February 13, 2009
"By sharing your personal story, engaging those who surround you, letting them experience your own personal commitment, and giving them the space to ask questions and learn about how the denial of marriage hurts families and helps no one, you are doing the indispensable work of social change for social justice."

Marriage and Gays: What Would Lincoln Do?
The Huffington Post
February 11, 2009
"As Lincoln's words and actions skillfully paved the way for America's 'new birth of freedom,' he returned again and again to the Declaration of Independence's promise that 'all should have an equal chance.' Lincoln didn't expect that promise to waft in by itself, or solely on the work of others. He led."

Bishop Robinson's moral witness lights the way for Obama's presidency and policies
Google News Comments
January 13, 2009
Evan Wolfson writes, "When he stands before Abraham Lincoln's statue to mark a new presidency, Bishop Robinson will provide President-elect Obama, and the nation and world, a lesson in values to light the way forward. Prayer must then be matched by policy."


Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections
Freedom to Marry
January 2009
Contrary to some political expectations, this report proves voting to support the freedom to marry and opposing anti-marriage measures helps rather than hurts politicians.

The more, the better
Google News Comments
December 30, 2008
Evan Wolfson writes, "Those truly committed to change, whether through 'new' methodologies or 'old,' will shed complacency or negativity and do their parts -- and find ways to work together to bring that change sooner. All of Dr. King's 'methodologies of social change' remain as needed and relevant today; what we need is not just 'new,' it's more. "

Letter to the Editor: Do Not Deny a Minority the Right to Marry
The New York Times
November 30, 2008
Evan Wolfson writes, "Imagine what our country would look like today had the opponents of equality been able to cement into the Constitution the prejudices of the majority and the passions of the moment. Our president-elect -- the son of a couple who would have been barred from marriage because of 'tradition,' religious opposition and the majority's discomfort -- might have had a very different life."

Letters to President-elect Obama: Evan Wolfson
November 24, 2008
For the for the December 16 issue of Advocate, Evan Wolfson writes, "Discrimination based on sexual orientation, particularly government denial of fundamental rights such as the freedom to marry, is not a gay problem. It is an American problem. And the cause of equal rights for all must always hold a preeminent claim on any president."


Next Steps in California and the Country to End Discrimination in Marriage
Google Comments
November 13, 2008
All of us committed to restoring the freedom to marry in California should move swiftly (and together) to taking the great work, energy, volunteers, allies, and inroads of the past few days and weeks, not allowing them to dissipate, and add them to the non-gay and gay people now awakened to the need for involvement.

No One Said It Would Be Easy
Google Comments
November 10, 2008
From the millions who voted right in California and the thousands of gay and non-gay people who worked together to defeat Prop 8 to the majorities already with us among crucial populations (for example, young people of every race), I see the progress we have made and the foundation for the work needed ahead, provided we don't allow what we've built to dissipate.

Evan Wolfson on the Biden-Palin Debate and the Freedom to Marry
October 3, 2008
Evan Wolfson writes, "[T]o end on a positive, it is good news that yet again we see that the discussion around marriage equality is moving politicians, sincerely or otherwise, to greater acknowledgment of gay families and the wrongness of discrimination against them."

Should So-Called 'DOMA' be repealed?": "Yes. Legally Married Couples, Whether Gay or Non-Gay, Should Not Be Denied Equal Federal Rights."
Congressional Quarterly
September 2008
Marriage is not "defined" or "defended" by who is denied it.  In the United States, we don't have second-class citizens, and we shouldn't have second-class marriages.  Couples who have made a personal commitment in life deserve an equal commitment under the law, and those whom a state has lawfully joined in marriage should not see their marriages selectively set asunder by federal law.


Macy's Joins the Parade for Marriage Equality
Huffington Post
May 30, 2008
Evan Wolfson highlights the Macy’s ad in honor of the freedom to marry in California, the significance of a poll showing majority support for equality and against a discriminatory amendment in California, and a video of Bill O’Reilly’s skepticism about the opposition to marriage equality.

A week later in California, what's next?
Huffington Post
May 22, 2008
Evan Wolfson discusses how the CA Supreme Court not only did the right thing, it did its job--upholding the Constitution, and now equality must be defended.

The court got it right
USA Today
May 22, 2008
Evan Wolfson writes, "Last week, the highest court in our nation's biggest state got it right: Excluding loving committed couples from marriage harms them and their families and helps no one. Exclusion also violates the constitution's command of equality for all. American values of fairness and inclusion really do matter and apply to gay and non-gay people alike."

Taxing Our Patience
Evan Wolfson
April 7, 2008
As the tax deadline approaches, Evan Wolfson discusses how marriage discrimination causes unfair taxes for families across the country and offers examples of such discrimination. 


Today is Freedom to Marry Day – Just Don't Say "Gay Marriage"!
Evan Wolfson
February 12, 2008
As Americans across the country celebrate Freedom to Marry Day today, seizing the opportunity to have conversations with family members, friends, and coworkers about the importance of ending same-sex couples' exclusion from marriage, hopefully they'll talk a lot about gay couples and why marriage matters – without saying “gay marriage” and “same-sex marriage.” 

Al Gore Endorses the Freedom to Marry
Huffington Post
January 23, 2008
Evan Wolfson praises Nobel Laureate Al Gore for adding his voice in support of ending same-sex couples' exclusion from marriage.  Wolfson quotes Gore, who said, “I think that gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women, to make contracts, to have hospital visiting rights, to join together in marriage, and I don’t understand why it is considered by some people to be a threat to heterosexual marriage to allow it by gays and lesbians.”  Wolfson concludes, “Gore is again pointing the way — and ending exclusion from marriage is one climate change the world will be better for.”

Building on 2007
Freedom to Marry
January 15, 2008
In 2008, it is due season for the redeeming of our country, for justice for all families, and for that all-important second state.  The work of winning begins with the conversations each one of us has with those around us, as we become the change we seek.

Let California Ring: Talking About Change Makes It
Huffington Post
October 23, 2007
Evan Wolfson writes about Let California Ring, the new campaign to encourage a million conversations throughout the state (and hopefully millions across the country) about why everyone should care about ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. Wolfson points to the recent example of San Diego Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders' change of heart and mind in favor of marriage equality as proof that conversations work. There is momentum — and urgency — now as the California Supreme Court, the first court to strike down race-discrimination in marriage nearly 60 years ago, will soon hear a challenge to ongoing marriage discrimination.


A Tearful Republican Mayor Comes Out — For the Freedom to Marry
The Huffington Post
September 20, 2007
Complete with video, Evan Wolfson highlights an emotional press conference by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican former police chief, at which he announced his intention to sign a resolution supporting the freedom to marry, a reversal from his prior public opposition. Mayor Sanders said his change of heart and mind was due to soul-searching and personal conversations with gay people he knows, including his lesbian daughter, showing how powerful it is to make the conversation about real people, not just legalisms or hypotheticals. He also described how he has come to understand that his prior support for civil union, rather than marriage, was inadequate and wrong. San Diego now joins the other major California cities in calling on the Governor and State Supreme Court to follow the legislature's lead in embracing marriage equality.

Marriage Equality: A Cause and Conversation That Won't (and Shouldn't) Stop
The Huffington Post
September 13, 2007
Evan Wolfson notes the recent events of an Iowa court decision striking down discrimination in marriage, the California legislature passing a marriage equality bill, and a Republican presidential candidate getting booed in New Hampshire for being anti-marriage, all proof that the conversation about the freedom to marry is unavoidable and present at the epicenters of presidential politics. Wolfson presents important points from the Iowa decision which exemplify why marriage matters and offers advice to presidential candidates with the Candidates' Guide on How to Support Marriage Equality and Get Elected.

Why the Dems should NOT shut up about gays and marriage
The New Republic
August 18, 2007
Evan Wolfson responds to August 16, 2007's piece in The New Republic, explaining that, "As public support for marriage equality continues to evolve, Democrats, thus already perceived as the party of 'gay marriage,' have a winning issue on their hands, one that evokes the best traditions of their party—fairness and inclusion. The conversation will not stop. Candidates who want to move on to other questions ought to get the freedom to marry question right—for their sake as well as the country's."

This week's gay debate: A prime-time opportunity for straight talk on marriage
The Huffington Post
August 8, 2007
As we all prepare for tonight's historic Democratic Presidential Debate, sponsored by our partners at HRC & LOGO, check out the key points Evan Wolfson laid out in the Featured Post on the Huffington Post blog. It discusses how candidates should answer the marriage questions at the forum, and beyond. The piece contains links to several resources to help the candidates do better — not just because it's in our interest that they get it right, but because it's in theirs, too.


Candidates' Guide on How to Support Marriage Equality and Get Elected (pdf)
Freedom to Marry
August 7, 2007
Americans are hungry for, and respect, candidates who speak up for what they believe and value. When addressing marriage equality for same-sex couples, candidates should be authentic and direct about their values and the policies of fairness that flow from them.

If You Want to Be a Leader, You Can't Be Afraid to Lead
The Huffington Post
July 26, 2007
Evan Wolfson critiques the Democratic Presidential candidates' "affirming," but still "incomplete and unconvincing" responses about the freedom to marry during the CNN/YouTube debate this week, offering the advice: "Ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is the clear and correct answer to the question of how to achieve equality. What's more: it is achievable. Candidates who say they want equality (and the votes of those who believe in equality) should be prepared to live up to their values and lead the way."

Pro-Marriage Incumbents and Candidates Win Elections
Freedom to Marry
July 26, 2007
Taking a stand to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage does not hurt incumbents or candidates in their elections.

'Homo history'
The Stranger
June 20, 2007
Touting this as the "comprehensive, unabridged, and completely indispensable guide to everything a queer person needs to know about queer history from the dawn of humanity to the present," The Stranger assembled essays from 26 notable gay people. Includes the essay "Same-Sex Marriage Comes to the U.S." by Evan Wolfson.

Marriage makes a word of difference
Portland Mercury
June 14, 2007
Evan Wolfson writes, "As Americans debate the freedom to marry, many are getting to a place of fairness by thinking anew. Others, however, find comfort in way stations, placeholders, and delays. The compulsion to 'compromise' the freedom and equality of others is so common, so much a typical feature of civil rights history, that I dedicated an entire chapter of my book, Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry, to the question, 'Why Not Use Another Word?'"


Loving equality
The Huffington Post
June 12, 2007
Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson and civil rights attorney Bernard S. Cohen, who argued the Loving's case, write together about Loving v. Virginia as a milestone in racial equality, an important vindication of marriage as a cherished civil right, and a testament to the importance of fighting for equality, rather than sitting by silently, indifferently, or complacently in the face of cruel exclusion.

From where I stand
Genre Magazine
June 1, 2007
Evan Wolfson describes the challenges of 2006, as well as the progress in 2007 and beyond. There are opportunities for good work in all states, whether they have anti-gay amendments or not. Marriage equality is within reach in all 50 states—if we do the reaching.

Many thanks on this 10th annual Freedom to Marry Week
Freedom to Marry
February 14, 2007
Evan's full Freedom to Marry Day remarks where he discusses the important achievements from Freedom to Marry Day in 1997 through to today.

BLOG: Op-Ed: NJ marriage '08 — Start your engines
Blue Jersey
January 6, 2007
When Governor Corzine signed New Jersey's civil union bill into law late last year, he kicked off the next and last stage of the work to secure the full measure of protection and dignity that is every family's due, and which civil union fails to deliver. And so we turn now to the months of persuasion and persistence needed to win all committed couples in New Jersey the freedom to marry, shimmering within our reach.

A New Year's message from Evan Wolfson
Freedom to Marry
December 20, 2006
As 2006 winds down, it's a good time to take a look back, rest and recharge, and get ready to return in January for what already is shaping up to be a historic and potentially transformative year. It's dawned on me in the past few weeks that 2006 was actually a pretty hard year, but, at the same time, a year in which supporters of the freedom to marry clearly made deep progress.

Winning marriage
Tom Paine
October 27, 2006
Once again, America is heading into an Election Day with another round of ballot-measure attacks on gay people. While a shifting mood in the electorate may give our cause a boost—and as the public begins to wise up to Karl Rove's gay-scapegoat-distraction plan—we are still likely to lose most, if not all, of the ballot measures aimed against us this year. We need to be ready to explain that loss to ourselves, our media and the public so the right-wing cannot spin these defeats into a false claim that our cause undermines candidates or other concerns we share.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: An enlightened ruling
New York Times
October 27, 2006
Evan Wolfson writes, "As the Legislature moves now to carry out the Constitution's command of equality, we are confident that legislators will see that the right way to end discrimination in marriage is indeed to end discrimination in marriage, not repackage it."

Telling the Truth
Freedom to Marry
October 11, 2006
Even the cruel, harsh, and despicably un-American state constitutional amendments are not the last word — unless we allow them to be. Ours is the generation that will live to see the exclusion from marriage ended in all fifty states, if we do the work... in all fifty states, using time wisely to do right.

Rise to Fairness
Freedom to Marry
September 27, 2006
If we do not speak out about why marriage matters, we can't expect others to calm down enough to hear other messages that might be easier for them to accept in the short-term, let alone rise to fairness.

Thinking Anew
Freedom to Marry
September 13, 2006
In the face of much that has gone wrong for America over the past five years, we have made undeniable progress in explaining why marriage matters to gay Americans. With the blueprint still before us, let's renew and redouble our work for social justice and reap the harvest we've sown.

California, Here We Come
Freedom to Marry
August 30, 2006
Freedom to Marry's Executive Director Evan Wolfson talks about the California Equality Project. This project will bring to bear the expertise and resources of a coalition of more than 30 national, state, and local civil rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations, including Freedom to Marry and many of our partners.


Stay in the fight: The court stumbled, but the movement for justice continues
The Stranger
July 28, 2006
Judges and politicians who don't do the right thing now will feel deep shame at their abdication in this moment of history. So will we—unless we move now to nudge past 5-4 to a full victory, ending the exclusion from marriage and creating a community of equality, liberty, and justice for all, just as Washington envisioned.

Why we fight for the freedom to marry
Equality California
July 10, 2006
Our fight for the freedom to marry is a fulfillment of American values — not just because most people value love, commitment, and protections for family, for which we seek marriage, but also because it is part of the history of freedom that those who seek freedom must stand up for it.

The freedom to marry: Keep dancing
The Advocate
July 10, 2006
Against the power of our truth and the inevitable rise to ascendancy of younger people who favor the freedom to marry, opponents of equality have only increasingly hollow appeals to "intuitions" and "traditions" that merely perpetuate rather than justify discrimination, present but curable discomfort that manifests itself in illogic and—here's where the ball is in our court—inertia that results from the failure of those who care to speak up and take action.


Returning to the well
Freedomt to Marry
June 7, 2006
As the right wing of the Republican party once again rolling out the anti-gay so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" which seeks to enshrine discrimination into our nation's constitution, the Democrats' response is scarcely better.

The Constitution protects us all: Say no to discriminatory amendments
Freedom to Marry
May 24, 2006
The so-called "Federal Marriage Amendment," if passed, would intrude the federal government into the regulation of marriage to prevent all states and all future generations from making their own decisions on ending sex discrimination in marriage, just as they ended race discrimination in marriage a generation ago.

Marriage equality, justice in immigration go together (pdf)
The Advocate
April 11, 2006
Gay people — both citizens and non-citizens — have a direct stake in both immigration fairness and ending anti-gay discrimination.

Marriage equality moves forward
March 29, 2006
Not only are we seeing the American people moving swiftly (in historical terms) toward marriage equality, but, in fact it turns out that even the third Wolfson considered unreachable on any reasonable timeline are not so adamant.


Celebrating Freedom to Marry Day with a call for marriage equality and fairness for all families
Wisconsin State Journal
February 14, 2006
As Freedom to Marry Week draws near, Wolfson calls for gay and lesbian families and allies to take every opportunity to address people's concerns, answer questions, and give them the time and information they need to learn why marriage matters.

Just say no to civil union
The Stranger
October 20, 2005
Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, discusses the inequities of civil unions and why the freedom to marry matters. As the Washington court decision draws near, Wolfson expresses the importance of those who favor equality and inclusion to help explain to the "reachable middle" why marriage matters and why ending marriage discrimination is the right thing to do.

Marriage Equality is Within Reach, If We Do the Reaching (and Don't Under-Reach)
Freedom to Marry
October 16, 2005
Originally adapted from a speech given to the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington (.wav) on October 16, 2005
Adapted and published in The Stranger on October 20, 2005
Evan Wolfson discusses the importance of those who favor equality and inclusion to help explain to the "reachable middle" why, "The right way to end discrimination in marriage is to, well, end discrimination in marriage. Not create something new, different, lesser, or other."

Countering a right-wing claim to the "slippery slope" argument
Freedom to Marry
October 12, 2005
Evan Wolfson sets the record straight about an ongoing right-wing smear tactic that keeps attempting to gain ground across the country.

ON THE HORIZON: Order and the Courts
E-Update Issue #1
September 7, 2005
The death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, at the end of last week, like the unfolding tragedies in the wake of Katrina, underscores the stakes of getting involved in shaping the government we want and need...


STATEMENT: Nebraska Ruling
Freedom to Marry
May 13, 2005
Evan Wolfson comments on the sweeping anti-gay amendment passed in Nebraska by the state Supreme Court.

ANALYSIS: Is now really the right time to fight for the freedom to marry?
Freedom to Marry
March 18, 2005
Evan Wolfson explains why we can't let our opponents slow us down, or let opinion polls dictate the fight for civil rights.

ANALYSIS: The wrong thing to do: Clinton's anti-gay advice
Freedom to Marry
November 5, 2004
Newsweek's post-election (November 15th) issue alleges behind-the-scenes advice to Kerry from Clinton: Support anti-gay state amendments to ban marriage equality. Kerry said no. Kerry was right on the merits and strategy.

ANALYSIS: What do the election results mean for the movement toward marriage equality?
Freedom to Marry
November 3, 2004
"Painful as these discriminatory measures will be for families and those who love them... they will not stop our advance toward the freedom to marry."


ANALYSIS: How will same-sex couples legally married in Massachusetts, Canada, or elsewhere be treated?
Freedom to Marry
May 20, 2004
Past battles over marriage and divorce show a pattern. For a period of time, there will be a patchwork of law and responses...

ANALYSIS: Why are the polls on 'gay marriage' so inconsistent?
Freedom to Marry
April 16, 2004
It's all about the 'moveable middle,' that group of Americans who are genuinely wrestling with divided impulses. The way a question is framed leads to highly changeable survey outcomes as these individuals grapple with deep feelings about fairness, discrimination, and American equality.

Advancing toward equality in marriage
Unitarian Universalist Association
April 1, 2004
Non-gay allies are vitally needed and have much to offer in the civil rights struggle for marriage equality for same-sex couples. It is crucial that diverse non-gay people, clergy, and opinion-leaders who support the goal of marriage equality speak out in the public arena.

President Bush's State of the Union - Letter to the Editor
New York Times
January 22, 2004
Politicians who want to amend the Constitution to discriminate in marriage are the greatest threat to American families and values.


ANALYSIS: What's all this talk about amending the Constitution?
Freedom to Marry
January 21, 2004
The Constitution safeguards every person's basic freedom and our nation's unity. Since 1791 the Constitution has only been amended 17 times, but never before to take away rights or equality from any group of Americans. Here's what's behind this political effort....

ANALYSIS: Why should I be for 'gay marriage'?
Freedom to Marry
December 3, 2003
We are asking for marriage, not "gay marriage" — the same rules, the same responsibilities, the same protections, the same dignity, the same commitment, the same opportunity to declare your love for another person with whom you build a life.

ADVISORY: Advice to Candidates
Freedom to Marry
November 21, 2003
How candidates should answer the question about where they stand on marriage equality turning back attacks by their opponents while preserving their "airtime" for the principal themes and issues in their campaign.

For Richer, For Poorer: Same-Sex Couples and the Freedom to Marry as a Civil Right
Drum Major Institute
June 1, 2003
Excluding same-sex couples from the economic and social benefits of marriage harms the most vulnerable, those of lesser means, immigrants, people who are ill, and children.

From Chapter 3 of Why Marriage Matters: Women as Legally Subordinate to Their Husbands
Why Marriage Matters


Why Marriage Matters
Here are just some of the ways in which government's denying the freedom to marry punishes couples and families by depriving them of critical tangible as well as intangible protections and responsibilities in virtually every area of life.

Crossing the Threshold: Equal Marriage Rights for Lesbians and Gay Men and the Intra-Community Critique (pdf)
NYU Rev. of Law & Social Change 576
In a law review article, Evan Wolfson addresses the intra-community differences of opinion and emphasis most recently reincarnated in the "Beyond Marriage" document and press blitz. Wolfson examines the false "either/or" premises of some advocates, and draws on history and social change theory in evaluating many of the claims made against the work to win the freedom to marry. The article was written in 1994.


As Americans across the country celebrate Freedom to Marry Day today, seizing the opportunity to have conversations with family members, friends, and coworkers about the importance of ending same-sex couples' exclusion from marriage, hopefully they'll talk a lot about gay couples and why marriage matters -- without saying "gay marriage" and "same-sex marriage." Same-sex couples, their kids and loved ones, and those of us who favor equal justice in America are not working to win "gay marriage." We are working to win the freedom to marry, ending the current unfair denial of marriage to those who are already doing the work of marriage in their own lives.

Phrases such as "gay marriage" or "same-sex marriage" imply that same-sex couples are asking for something other than marriage. They imply that same-sex couples deserve something different or lesser than the security, protections, safety-net, and respect that married couples cherish. (PDF) And they play into the right-wing"s fear-mongering that gay people are a threat to marriage, that equality and inclusion would somehow unacceptably "redefine" the law (in a country dedicated to those very values), and that "Defense of Marriage" is the answer to committed couples seeking to participate in a precious institution.

Marriage is not defined by who is excluded from it, and gay people are not the first to challenge its denial. This year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first court ruling striking down race restrictions on who could marry whom. In Perez v. Sharp, the California Supreme Court held that "the essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one's choice." The court explained that "human beings are bereft of worth and dignity by a doctrine that would make them as interchangeable as trains"; when you are denied the freedom to marry the person precious and irreplaceable to you, it's not like you can just catch the next one.

Fittingly, as we mark the 60th anniversary of that courageous court decision, other couples now stand before the same court which will hear argument on March 4, 2008. Those couples are not seeking "gay marriage," any more than Mrs. Perez sought "black marriage," or her husband sought "Latino marriage." They all claim, and deserve, marriage itself, the freedom to marry, which the U.S Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, noted "has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."

As we speak out about why marriage matters and how the denial of marriage harms couples and kids, undermining our nation's commitment to fairness and freedom, we've seen states move in the right direction, but falling short of equality. States such as California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont have created new legal mechanisms, called partnership or civil union, to provide parallel legal protections and responsibilities for gay people and their families. These new mechanisms - "gay marriage" - are better than nothing, but no substitute for marriage itself (PDF). Happily, in each of these states the debate continues and awareness is deepening that the work is not done, civil unions don't work, separate is not equal, and it's time to finish the job of ending exclusion from marriage, not just repackaging it.

Even without clear terminology always prevailing, people are getting it. Public support for marriage equality is growing faster than ever before. In just over 10 years, according to the Gallup poll, support for marriage equality has jumped almost 20 percentage points, while those against fairness decreased 15 percentage points in the same time period. Imagine the rate of progress we could see if people understood this not as creating "gay marriage," but, rather, ending the denial of the "freedom to marry" and letting couples committed to one another in life share the legal commitment of marriage.

Freedom to Marry Day, February 12th, aptly falls in the midst of Freedom to Marry Week, February 10-16. It's one more chance for gay and non-gay people to reach out to their circles - families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and fellow citizens -- and make the ask that moves people to action. Freedom to Marry Week is held every year, right around President Lincoln's Birthday and Valentine's Day, and Freedom to Marry provides tools and ideas (PDF) to help everyone find a way to connect and make a difference.

Much as we want people to understand that the words gay and marriage do belong together, we don't want "gay marriage." It's the freedom to marry that matters - for all of us - and the way to secure it is by talking to others. And it's the personal ask - each one of us raising our voice and not just assuming that those around us are there, or can't get there - that makes all the difference. Turn to the people in your life now, and say, "Happy Freedom to Marry Week!"

Follow Evan Wolfson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/freedomtomarry

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