For Evan Wolfson, an “I Do” Filled With “I Did”
This op-ed by Kate Kendall was originally published on October 13, 2011 in The Advocate. Read the full op-ed here.
When I opened the invitation my breath caught. “Cheng He and Evan Wolfson invite you to join us in celebrating our exercise of the freedom to marry.” How fitting that the single most tenacious and tireless advocate for the freedom of same-sex couples to marry was himself, finally, getting hitched… I mean, married.
Before many of us ever did, Evan understood the significance of that word. He knew that “words matter” and that as long as the M-word was withheld from us and our relationships, we would never win full dignity, justice, and equality. Years before there was a Cheng He for him to marry, Evan was fixedly determined that this culture would see our relationships free from stigma and as fully authentic and honest and real.
Twenty-eight years before Evan’s big day he wrote his Harvard Law School thesis on why gay couples should be able to marry. To say he was for gay couples marrying before it was cool is a profound understatement — he was for it when most everyone in the world couldn’t even conceive of it. Yet there he was, plugging away, assertively, relentlessly, yet always hopefully, year after year, making the case within the LGBT community and debating our opponents. He was co-counsel in the landmark 1993 Hawaii marriage case, Baehr v. Mike, which made so many of us recognize that this vision could become reality.
Evan and Cheng met nine years ago, and I imagine they knew this relationship was the real deal some time ago. But they did not get married in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Canada. I once asked Evan why not, and his answer was simple: “I want to be married where I live, in New York.” He knew that at some point, we would win the freedom to marry in New York, and he was willing to wait. He, like millions of lovers before him, wanted his day to be perfect.
The marriage of Evan and Cheng is the quintessential example of the personal being political. There is not a person on the planet who has worked harder to win the right to marry than Evan. Bound up in his “I do” will be decades of effort, strategy, and sleepless nights, along with countless speeches, exhortations, and limitless patience. There has never been an “I do” freighted with more “I did.”
But beyond the poignant symmetry of their marriage, what I can be very sure of is that what Evan and Cheng will remember from their wedding day is the joy of celebration, the joy of true love, the joy of finding your soul-mate, and the joy of getting married. Evan was right—marriage matters, but never more than on his own wedding day. Congratulations, Cheng and Evan, and best wishes for a long and happy life together.
Join me in wishing Cheng and Evan well on their big day by signing their congratulations card.