Hi Reddit!

I’m Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.

I first wrote my Harvard Law thesis on gay couples and marriage back in 1983 and have been fighting for the freedom to marry ever since. I wrote the book, “Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry,” and argued in front of the Supreme Court in the landmark case, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale.

In honor of tomorrow’s one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the core of the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act, Freedom to Marry is asking supporters to join our campaign asking mayors to speak up for marriage!


We are working to show that America is ready for the freedom to marry, and it’s time for the Supreme Court to bring us to national resolution. Every day of denial makes a big difference, and we'd like you with us.

So please ask away!

My Proof: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/blog/entry/ask-evan-wolfson-anything-on-reddit

Comments: 121 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

Frajer11 karma

The amount of states repealing their anti-gay marriage laws is increasing very rapidly,why do you think that is?

FreedomtoMarry14 karma

There are 3 main drivers to the momentum that is clearly on our side. One is the cumulative effect of millions of conversations and persuasion and progress. We now have 19 states with the freedom to marry, up from zero about a decade ago. We now have 59% support nationwide, up from 27% in 1996 when I was doing the world's first-ever trial on the freedom to marry, in Hawaii. And people have gotten to see with their own eyes families helped and no one hurt -- and America is now with us. Two is the additional constitutional clarity provided by the Supreme Court a year ago in the Windsor case. The Court demolished all the arguments made to justify discrimination against gay married couples, and now 22 rulings in federal and state courts have embraced the language and logic of the Court's ruling. And three, there are now married gay couples in every corner of the country, and the conversation is everywhere. The federal government is treating those couples as what they are -- married -- for federal purposes, even in states that discriminate. And from Georgia to Utah, Oklahoma to Florida, Arkansas to Indiana, people are speaking up and creating the climate for the Supreme Court to finish the job nationwide.

mikeydoesnotlikeit11 karma

My question is an ordinary one. How did you and your husband meet? :)

FreedomtoMarry11 karma

We actually met the old-fashioned way: online. For most of the time I've been doing the marriage work, over decades (!), I was whinily single. But I got lucky and met a wonderful person who would put up with me and who keeps me laughing... and after nearly 10 years together, we finally won the freedom to marry here in NY, where we live, and were able to marry. I still feel the glow and joy of our beautiful wedding day, even nearly 3 years later.

DerekStiles9 karma

What would have to happen for all anti-marriage state constitutional amendments to be simultaneously ruled unconstitutional at the federal level? How likely is that to happen?

FreedomtoMarry10 karma

Freedom to Marry's strategy (which you can find on our website -- it's not a secret) has always said we would win nationwide by persuading the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution. That means we don't have to win within the 4 corners of each of the 50 states... but we do have to win enough states and win over enough hearts and minds to create the climate that encourages the courts to do the right thing for the whole country. We believe we have secured that critical mass of states and support -- America is ready -- and that's why we're seeing wins in the courts like today's. Now we must work together to urge the Supreme Court to finish the job nationwide, sweeping away all marriage discrimination, as the Court did with interracial marriage bans in the best-named case ever, Loving v. Virginia, back in 1967.

MiaLovesGirls8 karma

What kind of message, to the rest of the world, do you think nationwide legalisation would send?

FreedomtoMarry6 karma

That's a great question. Even as we have been been making real progress -- long-sought, hard-fought, and still incomplete -- here in the US and in much of Europe, there have been tremendous setbacks and alarming abuses in countries from Russia to Uganda, Nigeria to Iran and much of the Muslim World. Gay people, like women, are often the canary in the coal mine -- and how a country treats women and gay people usually tells you a lot about its broader fidelity to human rights, pluralism, the rule of law, and a healthy safe society for all. We need to press hard against human rights abuses and thuggery internationally, but the single most effective step we in the US can take is to get our country where it needs to be. We need to be both an example at home, and an engine for international human rights work in global forums through the voice of our government.

karmanaut7 karma

What do you think the root of opposition to gay marriage is? What causes people to fight so vociferously against it?

FreedomtoMarry1 karma

There is a dwindling, increasingly isolated hard-core of opposition who are, sadly, still anti-gay. They believe the stereotypes they used to hear (which some still repeat) and feel threatened. But they are a minority now, and decreasing. There are many others who are still wrestling with the question of treating gay people fully equally, including in marriage -- and I don't consider them the "opposition" even though they are not yet with us. They are the reachable but not yet reached. And we can engage them, allay their fears, answer their questions, and bring them to the right side of history. That's why continued conversations are so important.

terattt7 karma

Do you think it is inevitable that gay marriage will be recognized everywhere in the us eventually?

FreedomtoMarry15 karma

I absolutely believe we will win the freedom to marry nationwide -- and our work is not done until everyone everywhere shares in the full measure of liberty and equality every American deserves. But winning is not won -- and it makes a big difference whether it's in 1 year or 10 years. So while we have the momentum and see the victory ahead, the reason we are winning is because we are doing the work of persuasion, organizing, education, and enlisting. If we stop that work and wait for change to waft in, we may be waiting way longer than necessary...and every day's denial is a real day of hardship, injustice, and indignity for families across the country.

mundaetraversa6 karma

Evan, after we win nationwide marriage equality, what do you think our advocates should focus upon next?

FreedomtoMarry6 karma

That's a good last question for today. I don't think of it as "next," because I think of all the work as connected. We are fighting for the freedom to marry in part because marriage is important, and in part because the conversation around marriage is an engine of changing hearts and minds in a way that helps advance protections and inclusion on every front. We've won more non-discrimination laws, more gender-identity protections, more safe-schools programs, etc., during the engagement over marriage than we did in the decades preceding...and still have much more to do. What we should be doing is harnessing the power of the marriage conversation to engaging people in every corner of the country on who LGBT people are, the many ways in which the law discriminates, and the many changes still needed. And we also need to ensure that legal change is not the end, but, rather, the prerequisite and foundation for the real change in lived experience... that is, making sure that not only is the law on the right side, but that people are growing up and living and thriving fully in supportive families, communities, and workplaces, and that we are a country where everyone can contribute and participate with the right to be both equal and different. It's not one thing or the other, it's not either/or, it's not zero-sum... we want it all, for everyone. That's the promise of America for us all.

riverdtx5 karma

Now that the 10th circuit has ruled, what is the impact on the other states under it's umbrella besides Utah? Must courts in those states make some sort of decision to have equal marriage?

FreedomtoMarry1 karma

There are cases in every state that still discriminates, including the others in the 10th circuit alongside Utah -- CO, KS, OK, WY. (In NM, we have the freedom to marry). The language and logic of the 10th circuit's beautiful ruling would apply to all of them; the court has stayed its ruling for now to give the state time to decide whether to spend taxpayer dollars on trying to overturn our victory at the Supreme Court... so stay tuned. (And of course, while staying tuned, stay engaged, because the reason we are winning is that we are working, not waiting).

Thinkyt5 karma

What one person or factor do you think has been most instrumental in the current shift in public support and resultant legislative response?

(Simplistic, I know, but a kind of 'Explain like I'm Five' moment would be great!)

FreedomtoMarry6 karma

The single most important engine of change has been -- and remains -- talking about who gay people are, why marriage matters, and shared values of love, commitment, connection, inclusion, equal respect, and the Golden Rule of treating others as you'd want to be treated. The more we've gotten Americans to talk about it, the more they have opened their hearts and changed their minds... to the point where we now have a majority for marriage nationwide and in every region of the country, including the South. The second biggest factor has been making it real. As people see the freedom to marry with their own eyes, they see families helped and no one hurt. And as they come to understand this is about real people and real love and joy and vulnerability and fairness, they move. Let's keep them moving until we finish the job.

Jdericson5 karma

Thank you for all of your work in giving us all the freedom to marry! What can we do, as the general public, to help?

FreedomtoMarry3 karma

The most important any one of us can do is to talk with the circles of people around us, working from easiest to more difficult, to make the case for why marriage matters and why we want them to add their voice to the majority for marriage. My mantra has always been: "There is no marriage without engagement" -- meaning we must engage people in conversation and ask for their support. That's what creates the climate that says to decision-makers -- elected officials, judges, appellate judges, and justices -- that America is ready and the time is now. And in addition to personal interaction, join the team efforts such as the Freedom to Marry campaign, www.freedomtomarry.org

Trying2BaWiseGuy4 karma

Be honest: did you and all the extended network of gays out there with a gay agenda (myself included) intentionally time this AMA to coincide with the 10th Circuit's ruling for publicity? You did, didn't you?

Okay, but in all seriousness, Congratulations! How are you feeling right now with this victory? How do you plan to celebrate?

FreedomtoMarry4 karma

I am elated by this win -- our first now at the appellate level since Windsor... and am celebrating in my usual fashion, by asking what next? We're not done til we're done, and with victory shimmering on the horizon, we need to keep going.

materhern3 karma

Is there a singular point in time that you feel was the "turning point" in the marriage equality fight? Or, rather, if you feel that time has yet to come, what are you looking for in terms of progress to that point?

FreedomtoMarry2 karma

There have been many milestones in our decades-long movement -- and in this Freedom to Marry campaign that has driven the strategy our movement is following, with so many people and organizations doing their part... I wrote about 10 Milestones in this piece in Pride Magazine commemorating this year's pride and 10th anniversary of marriage celebration: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/blog/entry/10-years-of-marriage-10-milestones-to-celebrate-how-we-got-here

b2ttles3 karma

What inspired you to write that Harvard Law thesis in the first place? Thank you for your hard work in this area.

FreedomtoMarry4 karma

Thanks to all who asked about what inspired me. In part, it's the work of so many across so many movements who have fought for human rights and to make the world better -- I have pictures of Dr. King, FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, among others, in my office. And what moved me personally was my time in the Peace Corps in West Africa, when as I explored my own sexuality, I met people who, had they lived in a different society, would have been gay. But because in their society, that was not an opportunity given them -- indeed, they didn't even have the language for a life with the person they loved -- they couldn't be who they are. That led me, when writing in law school, to argue that we should have the freedom to marry. And in claiming the language of marriage, we would be claiming a language of love, commitment, and inclusion that would transform non-gay people's understand of who gay people are.

ktharr1 karma

Thank you for all that you have done with Freedom to Marry! With the 10th Circuit striking down Utah's same-sex marriage ban today, what do you project will happen with the movement over the next year(s)? How soon do you think it will take to get to the Supreme Court and for them to issue a decision?

FreedomtoMarry7 karma

Hi, this Evan, and we picked a great day for this conversation. We've just won our 16th federal lower-court ruling in a row in Indiana -- and as you noted, just won our first federal court ruling in favor of the freedom to marry, in the 10th Circuit (in case coming out of Utah). Not bad for one morning... With all these case moving forward throughout the country (over 70 in 31 states plus Puerto Rico), it is likely that the Supreme Court will be asked to hear one or more by the end of the year. If the Court takes a case (or more), we would likely see arguments next spring and a decision possibly by a year from now -- June 2015. Freedom to Marry is working hard to make the same strong case for marriage in the court of public opinion as our movement is making in the courts of law... and we are working to show that America is ready for the freedom to marry and the Court should end marriage discrimination ASAP once and for all.

polimodern1 karma

Do you think there is a constitutional case to make the government require churches to marry anyone who asks them?

FreedomtoMarry7 karma

No. The First Amendment protects the right of every church, temple, synagogue, and mosque to decide for itself whom it will marry. Government may not tell religions what to do in their marriage rites. But nor should religions be dictating to the government who can get a marriage license. There is a difference between R-I-T-E-S and R-I-G-H-T-S, and the best way to preserve both personal freedom and religious freedom to is to respect the difference. This is about who can get a civil marriage license from the government, and exercise that constitutional freedom to marry. It's not about determining what people believe or think, or how they worship.

pokerplayerman1 karma

Do you have no tolerance for people who don't support gay marriage. Its a state right. If the people of Texas don't support it why should you impose it upon them? By giving them this right others lose their rights.

FreedomtoMarry8 karma

The people of Texas include the minority who are gay, as well as the majority who aren't... and includes those gay Texans's family, kids, loved ones, friends, co-workers, and fellow citizens. In America, we invented two great political principles. The first is that here, we have no king; the people rule... and so most things get decided by a vote. The second, equally important, great American principle, is that certain fundamental freedoms, rights, and liberties are so important that they belong to every individual, and should not be put up for a vote. They are "inalienable," and Americans protect those freedoms for all, even those who are in the minority or who are unpopular. States don't have rights, we, the People, do. And the freedom to marry, like freedom of religion or the freedom of speech, etc., cannot be voted away by the majority. That's how we protect the rights of all of us, all Americans, including Texans, including gay people.

thethirst0 karma

I've heard there are still issues with military/veterans and federal government programs and agencies that still don't treat same-sex married couples the same as opposite-sex ones. What issues are those and how do we close loopholes across the board?

FreedomtoMarry2 karma

The Obama Administration, to its credit, worked hard this past year to fully implement the Constitution's command of equality as enunciated by the Supreme Court a year ago in Windsor. The Court said that the federal government may not discriminate against gay couples who are married, and must treat them as what they are -- married -- for federal purposes. The Administration has enacted that in the range of ways federal programs bear on married couples -- including, for example, taxation, health coverage, family/medical leave, immigration, and so on. But the Administration concluded that there are a handful of programs that because of other statutory barriers they cannot act alone, and need Congress or the courts to finish the job. The most important of these are Social Security -- a really big one! -- and some veterans benefits. This means that even though gay couples are legally married, even though we are paying taxes and serving our Nation in the armed forces and caring for our families as we grow older, we still face some discrimination both in the states and in these key federal programs. The way to fix this is to end the denial of the freedom to marry in the states and to ensure full legal respect for all marriages -- including those of seniors and veterans -- across the board. Congress can make some specific fixes by passing curative legislation, including the Respect for Marriage Act and bills directly addressing Social Security and veterans -- but the real answer is for the Supreme Court to end marriage discrimination nationwide, once and for all.