Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson Cried Tears of Joy Reading the Supreme Court Marriage Ruling
This article by Peter Delvecchio was originally published on June 26, 2015 in Frontiers Magazine. Read the full article here.
Legendary marriage equality warrior Evan Wolfson has been on the front lines of the marriage equality battle since before most of the rest of us realized there even was a battle. He wrote his thesis at Harvard Law School on same-sex marriage in 1983—two decades before the Supreme Court even struck down state sodomy laws in 2003.
In 1990, when his employer, Lambda Legal, refused to let him represent three gay couples seeking marriage rights in Hawaii, Wolfson, working on the side with another attorney, helped the couples score a win in the Hawaii courts, albeit a temporary one.
Wolfson (pictured above with his husband Cheng He) founded Freedom to Marry in 2001. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004. That same year, he published “Why Marriage Matters – America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry,” now a classic text of the LGBT movement.
Frontiers had the honor of conducting a phone interview with this gay rights icon Friday, June 26, the day the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, vindicating Wolfson’s decades-long quest, a quest just about everyone once viewed as quixotic.
Asked how he felt the moment he learned of the victory, Wolfson described being gathered with his team in a conference room at Freedom to Marry headquarters, everyone nervously refreshing Twitter and SCOTUSblog over and over.
“Despite my amazingly great digital team of whiz kids,” Wolfson says, “I actually was the one who saw it first and was able to call it out first and announce it, and, of course, we all cheered.” Wolfson and his crew poured the champagne, “raised a toast, and then we all went right to work … with enormous smiles on everybody’s face.”
Wolfson then retired to his office to “read through the opinion in order to be able to answer questions” in a spate of interviews today. (Read the full opinion here).
“I found myself crying,” he said. “I would read, and start crying. And then I would say, c’mon, c’mon, got to keep going, and then I’d get to another passage that would trigger another memory, and I would cry. I guess the emotion, and the pressure, and some degree of worrying that I’ve been carrying, really for 32 years, as I’ve been putting forward the message of we can do this, we will win—really just welled up inside of me and came out, and I just felt extreme joy, and pride, and elation, and wonder that we have won this and that America did the right thing.”
“Part of what really made it so powerful and emotional for me,” Wolfson went on, “was in the last several weeks as we’ve been obviously readying for this moment, I’ve actually been talking to lots of other advocates and early pioneers and others whom I worked with long, long ago, or even wrote about, and so many of those memories just kept coming back in as I read through Justice Kennedy‘s extraordinarily powerful and important vindication and ruling.”
All of that said, though, the victory did not really surprise Wolfson. “I really certainly felt like we had made the case to the court and to the country,” he said, “and we had built this extraordinary momentum, and we had done everything our strategy said we needed to do in order to encourage the court to do the right thing, and of course, by this time we’d also won 67 state and federal court rulings over the last few years with only a handful going the other way, so I was very, very hopeful that we were going to win.”
Asked what he found striking about Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, Wolfson responded, “What I loved was the way he talked about how marriage matters, he talked about how we as gay people matter, and the Constitution’s guarantees must of course apply to us. He talked about the fact that this isn’t coming out of the blue. It has come after decades of struggle and debate and conversation, in which the American people have moved. But then he also really made clear that the day of the gay exception is over. Gay people must be included, must be treated with respect, and are entitled to the full command of the Constitution, just like every other American. To have that come in this marriage victory, which is about marriage and is about so much more, really made it the very sweet triumph I was hoping for.”
Read the full article at Frontiers Media.