The Lawyer And Writer Who Made Marriage Equality Happen

This article by Chris Geidner was originally published on March 25, 2013 in BuzzFeed. Read the full article here.

Evan Wolfson sat in his Manhattan office less than a week before the Supreme Court’s landmark hearings on same-sex couples’ marriage rights — a cause to which he has devoted most of his adult life, beginning with the formative 1983 paper he wrote on the subject while in Harvard Law School.

With Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. looking down at him from pictures on the wall, Wolfson — a balding, professorial man who speaks quickly in paragraphs that contain many commas but few periods — had no doubt about his influences, or about the moral strength of his cause. Now, 30 years after he started this fight, he marvels at how marriage equality — once a marginalized, abstract notion that seemed absurd in all corners of society — has come within a gavel’s strike of being the law of the land.

“By historical standards, this has gone very quickly. Even if you remember that it didn’t happen in the last 10 minutes, it has gone very quickly,” Wolfson said. He launched Freedom to Marry in 2003 in an attempt to move beyond the existing legal groups and provide an educational and political effort solely devoted to advancing the cause of marriage equality. “It’s gone very quickly because of the power of marriage and because of the absence of any really good reason for excluding couples,” he said.

Wolfson wasn’t the first person to call for marriage equality. Indeed, the first wave began moving in the aftermath of the 1969 Stonewall riots that gave birth to the modern LGBT civil rights movement. At the time, the courts pushed back strongly. A Kentucky Court of Appeals judge put the general view of the courts most bluntly in 1973 when he wrote that Kentucky couldn’t grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple because “what they propose is not a marriage,” and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a similar claim a year earlier as lacking “a substantial federal question.”

Since the 1980s, though, Wolfson and his unlikely compatriot in the cause — the self-identified conservative-libertarian writer Andrew Sullivan — have been arguing forcefully and persuasively that achieving marriage equality is the key step to advancing gay rights in society. Although neither will be talking to the justices this week, their writings — and lives’ work — echo throughout the arguments that have resulted in successful court decisions and unprecedented public support for their once-novel proposal.

Read the full article at BuzzFeed