Freedom to Marry

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Freedom to Marry
Formation 2003
Type 501(c)(3)
Purpose Same-sex marriage
Headquarters New York City
Evan Wolfson

Freedom to Marry was the national campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples in the United States. Freedom to Marry was founded in New York City in 2003 by Evan Wolfson, whom many consider to be the architect of the modern marriage movement.[1] Wolfson served as president of the organization through the June 2015 victory at the Supreme Court, until the organization’s official closing in February 2016.

Freedom to Marry drove the national strategy - what Freedom to Marry called the “Roadmap to Victory” - that led to the nationwide victory. The strategy aimed at a Supreme Court win bringing the country to national resolution, once advocates had succeeded in creating the climate for the court by working on three tracks: winning marriage in a critical mass of states, growing national majority support for marriage, and ending marriage discrimination by the federal government.[2]


In 1983, at a time when same-sex couples had no country- or state-level recognition anywhere in the world, Evan Wolfson wrote his Harvard Law School thesis on the constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples. He believed that by claiming the vocabulary of marriage, same-sex couples could transform the country’s understanding of who gay people were and, as a result, why exclusion and discrimination are wrong. The thesis outlined the arguments that ultimately became a national conversation and a legal and political set of battles that led to a transformation of public understanding and a triumph in the Supreme Court.[3]

Wolfson went on to serve full-time as the Marriage Director of Lambda Legal throughout the 1990s. He worked as co-counsel in Hawaii’s landmark Baehr case, which launched the ongoing international freedom to marry movement.[4] The Hawaii case foreshadowed the pattern ahead: a legal breakthrough followed by political defeat, because of insufficient progress in changing hearts and minds. When, in 2000, Wolfson was approached by leaders of the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, he successfully proposed that the foundation make a $2.5 million challenge grant investment in 2001 – then the largest foundation award in the history of the LGBT movement from a highly respected, non-LGBT foundation – to help Wolfson build a new campaign to win marriage.[5] The campaign was officially launched in 2003, the birth of Freedom to Marry.


Federal campaign to repeal DOMA[edit]

Freedom to Marry is pursuing a federal campaign to increase the number of supporters for the Respect for Marriage Act,[6] the bill that would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman under federal law. Freedom to Marry has partnered with other organizations including Equality Maryland, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, Courage Campaign, and Ocean Station Action in its efforts to reach members of Congress. The organization garnered a petition with 3,000 signatures from Maryland residents to pressure Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland to co-sponsor the bill.[7] Currently, the groups are lobbying Sens. Bob Casey, Jack Reed, and Susan Collins to support the bill.[8] Republican lobbyist Kathryn Lehman, of the law firm Holland & Knight, helped Freedom to Marry's efforts to overturn DOMA in June 2013.[9]

New York campaign[edit]

Freedom to Marry was involved in the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York in 2011. Freedom to Marry was one of the founders of New Yorkers United for Marriage, a coalition of New York LGBT organizations that worked for the legalization.[10] Taking on a key leadership role in guiding the coalition’s work, Freedom to Marry spent over $1,000,000 on television and newspaper ads, direct mail, and polling in the effort.[citation needed]

"Say, 'I Do'"[edit]

In March 2011, the organization launched an open letter calling on Barack Obama to support same-sex marriage.[11] Over 122,000 people signed their names to the letter,[12] including numerous celebrities, civic leaders, and entrepreneurs.[12][13] The campaign ended on May 9, 2012, when President Obama became the first sitting president of the United States to say he supports marriage for same-sex couples.[14]

Why Marriage Matters[edit]

"Why Marriage Matters" is Freedom to Marry’s national public education campaign.[15] The campaign was launched on February 14, 2011[15] The Why Marriage Matters project includes videos and stories from real people and real facts about why marriage matters.[16]

Summer for Marriage[edit]


In 2010, Freedom to Marry launched their “Summer for Marriage” campaign countering the National Organization for Marriage’s “One Man, One Woman” bus tour.[17] Sean Eldridge stated “Our goal is to demonstrate that there are loving, committed same-sex couples across the US who deserve, and in some states now have, the protections and the responsibilities of marriage. We’re not going to let NOM get away with distracting from and distorting the truth about our families and the protections that we need.”[18]

Democrats: Say I Do[edit]

Main article: Democrats: Say I Do

In February 2012, Freedom to Marry launched a campaign to persuade Democratic Party politicians to adopt an inclusion of same-sex marriage as part of the party platform at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The campaign contributed to outspoken support from 22 Democratic Senators, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Chair of the Democratic National Convention Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Caroline Kennedy and nine other co-chairs of President Obama's reelection campaign, and more than 40,000 Americans who added their names to Freedom to Marry's online petition. On July 29, the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee included a plank supporting same-sex marriage in the first draft of their party platform. The draft was ratified at the Democratic National Convention in September, making the Democratic Party the first major U.S. political party to officially support marriage for same-sex couples in the national party platform.[19]

Mayors for Marriage[edit]

In January 2012, Freedom to Marry launched the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign (also known as Mayors for Marriage), encouraging mayors of cities throughout the United States to endorse marriage equality for their localities.[20] Nearly 300 mayors have joined the campaign.[21] In January 13, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon published a column, Gay marriage a question of justice, in USA Today.

Win More States Fund[edit]

In March 2012, Freedom to Marry launched the "Win More States Fund," which identified battleground states to direct funding toward in order to approve same-sex marriage or stop same-sex marriage from being banned. The states for 2012 were New Hampshire, Maine, Washington, Minnesota, New Jersey, and later Maryland.[22] The goal was to raise at least $3 million to funnel into the state campaigns. The organization met this initial goal in early August 2012 and continued working to raise funds on behalf of the states.[23] All six of the states in the Win More States Fund experienced successes in 2012 - with Maine, Maryland, and Washington passing marriage at the ballot during the November 2012 election, Minnesota blocking an anti-gay amendment, New Hampshire staving off a measure to repeal the marriage bill, and New Jersey passing a marriage bill through the state legislature.[24]

In February 2013, the organization launched the second round of states for the Win More States Fund with a goal of raising and investing $2 million into the campaigns to win marriage in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island.[25]

Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry[edit]

Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is a campaign to highlight and build support for the freedom to marry among young conservatives across America. They represent young conservatives across the country that agree all Americans should be able to share in the freedom to marry.[26] Notable members of Young Conservatives Leadership Committee include S.E. Cupp, Abby Huntsman, and Meghan McCain.[27] The effort is managed by conservative activist Tyler Deaton.[28]

On June 4, 2014 the campaign launched a national effort to "reform the RNC platform." The "reform the platform" campaign launched in New Hampshire, consisting of a plan focused on the presidential primary states and "leading up to the Republican National Convention in 2016.”[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Galles, Kristen (Summer 2009). "Human Rights Heroes, Evan Wolfson and Mary Bonauto" (PDF). Human Rights (Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, American Bar Association) 36 (3): 24. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Roadmap to Victory". Freedom to Marry. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  3. ^ ""How it Happened"". Freedom to Marry. Retrieved February 5, 2016. 
  4. ^ ""How it Happened"". Freedom to Marry. Retrieved February 5, 2016. 
  5. ^ "The Marriage Equality Hall of Fame". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  6. ^ Joseph, Andrew (November 3, 2011). "Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Looking for Conservative Support". National Journal. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  7. ^ Johnson, Chris (August 24, 2011). "Mikulski pressured to co-sponsor DOMA repeal". Washington Blade. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Groups Launch Campaign Urging Senators Lieberman & Collins to Co-Sponsor Respect for Marriage Act". American Civil Liberties Union. November 16, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Three things to know about Supreme Court gay marriage rulings". Tampa Bay Times. June 26, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Cuomo Helps Groups Mobilize for Gay Marriage Bill". New York Times. April 19, 2011. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  11. ^ "Say, "I Do" Mr. President". Freedom to Marry. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Riley, Jennifer (June 9, 2011). "Natalie Portman, Fiancé Millepied Push President Obama for Gay Marriage". Christian Post. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  13. ^ Park, James (March 14, 2011). "US celebrities and entrepreneurs call on Obama to support gay marriage equality". Pink News. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Freedom to Marry Hails President Obama's historic support for the freedom to marry". Freedom to Marry. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b "Gay Love, Equality Examined in Nationwide Valentine's Day Campaign". ABC News. February 14, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Stories". 1. Retrieved February 14, 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ Grair, Marchae (June 24, 2010). "Freedom to Marry Announces Summer Tour". The Advocate. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  18. ^ Hellew, Candace. "Summer Brings Competing Marriage Tours". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  19. ^ Johnson, Chris (July 30, 2012). "Democratic platform draft includes marriage equality plank: sources". The Washington Blade. 
  20. ^ Byrne, John (January 20, 2012). "Emanuel joins U.S. mayors supporting same-sex marriage; Municipal leaders launching a national push". Chicago Tribune. 
  21. ^ ((cite news|url= |title=Mayors' Marriage Equality Group Grows Threefold |date=January 18, 2013 |work=The Advocate))
  22. ^ Dallara, Angela (March 22, 2012). "Freedom to Marry announces "Win More States Fund" for 2012". Freedom to Marry. 
  23. ^ Polaski, Adam (August 13, 2012). "‘Win More States Fund’ reaches $3 million goal for investment in state campaigns". Freedom to Marry. 
  24. ^ Ball, Molly (December 11, 2012). "The Marriage Plot: Inside This Year's Epic Campaign for Gay Equality". The Atlantic. 
  25. ^ Polaski, Adam (February 6, 2013). "Freedom to Marry announces 2013 drive to invest $2 million in Win More States Fund". Freedom to Marry. 
  26. ^ "Young Conservatives For The Freedom To Marry". Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Young Conservatives Leadership Committee". Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Young Conservatives Are Setting Out on a Crusade Against Homophobic Party Language". Retrieved July 31, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Young Conservatives for Freedom to Marry’ in NH to launch campaign to reform RNC platform". Retrieved July 31, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

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