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Moving Equality in Civil Marriage From Possibility to Inevitability

To advance the movement for marriage equality, a core group of gay and non-gay leaders and groups is working to launch a new organization and approach, the Freedom to Marry Collaborative (FMC). Headed by Evan Wolfson, one of America's leading lesbian/gay rights advocates and lawyers, FMC will bring new resources, a new non-gay/gay partnership, and a renewed context of urgency and opportunity to this social justice movement.

Our goal is clear, ambitious, and focused: win the freedom to marry in at least one state within the next five years. Civil marriage is a powerful and important affirmation of love, a source of social recognition and support, and the legal gateway to a vast array of protections, responsibilities, and benefits, most of which cannot be replicated in any other way. These include everything from access to health care to parenting and immigration rights to Social Security benefits to transferring property without adverse tax consequences. The inequities and the legal and cultural second-class status that exclusion from marriage reinforces affect all gay people, but fall hardest on the poor, the less educated, and the otherwise vulnerable. Denial of the freedom to marry undermines young gay people's sense of self and dreams of a life together with a partner. We can change this - and at the same time stake our claim to the vocabulary of love and full equality, the language in which the freedom to marry debate summons non-gay people to talk about our lives.

The next five years will be pivotal in this struggle, with key battles underway in at least four crucial and promising states, and ongoing national -- indeed, international -- cultural engagement. With the epic advances of the Hawaii and Vermont cases to build on, growing public support, and a new wave of litigation, legislation, and electoral battles upon us now, historic transformation shimmers within reach. But the partners in this work need a multi-methodology strategy that brings litigation, legislation, direct action, and public education into a larger whole, and that fosters heightened outreach to non-gay allies. A critical lesson from marriage battles in Hawaii, California, and Vermont is that we cannot and must not again leave any one state or organization hanging out there alone.

FMC will be a nationwide, multi-disciplinary partnership providing support to targeted state and local efforts. FMC's team and its partners and allies will jointly pursue a strategy to secure a legal breakthrough while fostering the cultural engagement that reaps benefits and positions the lesbian/gay civil rights movement for further successes along the way. By meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the ongoing and inevitable battles over marriage, we at the same time help attain other important social justice goals (for instance, we regrouped from the anti-marriage vote in California to win a sweeping partnership law just a year later, and we continue to see the national discussion over marriage shift public opinion toward support for protections related to marriage such as access to health care, parenting rights, and family recognition).

As a new organization supplementing existing partners and finding new allies, the Freedom to Marry Collaborative will work to enhance progress toward civil marriage equality. By ending sex discrimination in civil marriage, much as we ended race discrimination in marriage a generation ago, we will build a better America, and protect and support families, children, and the freedom of choice for all.

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