Evan Wolfson to serve as grand marshal of Chicago Pride

On Sunday, Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson will be honored as the grand marshal in Chicago's 43rd annual Pride Parade. Activists in the state are currently building momentum for the freedom to marry in Illinois, and Wolfson's appearance will speak directly to why marriage matters.

Currently in Illinois, same-sex couples can enter into civil unions, and in the past year, 5,000 couples have seen their relationships recognized by the state in this capacity. Civil unions offer some - but not all - of the protections that marriage affords, and this year, even couples with civil unions have seen their relationships misunderstood, disrespected, and treated as something significantly less than marriage. Despite the legal and economic benefits that civil unions afford, only the freedom to marry can truly protect all same-sex couples and their families. 

Wolfson will be making that point clear as he serves as the parade's grand marshal. In a statement, he said:

I'm honored to return to Chicago as Grand Marshal in the Pride Parade -- and especially happy to seize the chance to help ramp up the campaign to finish the job and build on civil union to win the freedom to marry in Illinois. Civil union offers some protections to families in tough economic times, but is no substitute for marriage itself, with all its meaning. With urgent Illinois opportunities now to secure the freedom to marry both in the courts and the legislature, and with Illinois's favorite son in the White House showing the power of conversations about why marriage matters, it's time to talk neighbor to neighbor about our love, commitment, and families, and grow support for the freedom to marry all across the Land of Lincoln.

Wolfson, who founded Freedom to Marry in 2003 after serving as the marriage project director for the acclaimed Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, will be joined at the parade by his husband, Dr. Cheng He. The couple married in New York last October after the state approved the freedom to marry.

Chicago Pride begins at noon on Sunday, when nearly 200 floats and community groups will flood the streets of the city in a celebration of free expression and fair treatment.