Freedom to Marry celebration video tracks success of Roadmap to Victory

Last week, at the Freedom to Marry Celebration in New York, we debuted a new video that chronicles the path of LGBT rights to the present day, after winning a national victory for marriage. The video brings us through a journey of LGBT rights in America, from when gay people were a hated minority to when same-sex couples are finally, once and for all, free to marry. (Video produced by Eyepop Productions).

Watch the moving video here:

The video begins with President Barack Obama's speech from June 26, after the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide. "Progress in this journey often comes in small increments," President Obama said in his address. "Sometimes, two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then some times there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."

President Obama's speech rings true to what activists for the freedom to marry have seen throughout the years as we worked towards this sweeping victory -- that it was a result of careful, planned execution over decades.

Before Marriage: Learning From the Past

Just decades ago, LGBT people were sometimes arrested just for being who they were -- something that was resisted during the 1969 Stonewall protests and with the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas. The American government, for many years, downplayed the importance of LGBT rights, and the American public, at times, deplored the love that same-sex couples feel for each other. For many LGBT activists, the freedom to marry was not something to be considered necessary.

The First Fights for Marriage

But, even then, same-sex couples had begun fighting for their freedom to marry, applying for marriage licenses as early as the 1970s. Court cases arguing for same-sex couples' right to marriage began at that time as well -- but the results were indicative of the need to alter courts' perceptions of what it meant for same-sex couples to marry. The country did not yet understand that LGBT couples' love is the same as any other -- built on commitment, trust, and devotion.

Evan Wolfson Sees Power in Marriage Movement

In 1983, Evan Wolfson, who would later become the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, wrote his thesis on the freedom to marry, arguing for the necessity of marriage being available to same-sex couples in America. "I believed that our fight for the freedom to marry would be an engine of transformation," Evan explains in the video.

Still, Evan's colleagues in the LGBT rights fight were unsure that the freedom to marry was the answer for the movement at that point.

Marriage in the Courts: The First Case

Then, in 1993, Hawaii ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for a same-sex couple -- the first time a state court had ruled for same-sex couples' love. Although this ruling was momentous, it was never able to take effect - the first anti-marriage ballot initiative was passed in the state, preempting the freedom to marry. After the defeat of this first marriage win, and the signing of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, it became clear that marriage could not only be won in the courts. The movement needed to work on winning the hearts and minds of America's public, as well - and that's where Freedom to Marry was born.

Developing the Roadmap

Freedom to Marry's goal was to win the freedom to marry nationwide, bringing marriage to same-sex couples across the country over time by whatever method necessary - in the courts, in the legislatures, and at the ballot. At the same time, it was important to work toward helping win the case for the freedom to marry in the court of public opinion, helping the average citizen to see that same-sex couples deserve the same responsibilities and protections of marriage as everyone else. 

Throughout the years since Freedom to Marry's conception, there were repeated setbacks - several political leaders publicly argued against the freedom to marry or called for a dreadful "Federal Marriage Amendment," voters in California passed Proposition 8, and mean-spirited constitutional amendments were passed in many states. But we began to see real momentum in 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to welcome the freedom to marry, followed by advances for same-sex couples' rights in many other states. These legislative battles and court cases made it clear that the Freedom to Marry plan was working.

Then, two years ago, when the so-called Defense of Marriage Act was repealed by the United States Supreme Court, and the freedom to marry was returned to same-sex couples in California -- we began to see that we were closer than ever to winning marriage nationwide.

Victory: The Freedom to Marry Comes to America

These moments, small and large, resulted in the emotional and momentus victory last month, when the United States Supreme Court finally made thousands of same-sex couples' dreams a reality and ruled in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide. This wonderful, correct ruling was, as we've seen, the result of all of us working tirelessly, planning for, fighting for, and achieving what some said was impossible -- the freedom to marry for everyone in America.

"We convinced the nation that Love is Love," the video narrates. "This was our journey, together, with a movement of many, a shared strategy we stuck to, a campaign to drive that strategy and spearhead that movement. We learned. We built. We rebounded. We kept going."

Don't miss the video, here.