Leadership

After a Big Supreme Court Win, Freedom to Marry is Winding Down. Its Momentum Lives On.

The advocacy group Freedom to Marry, which spent more than a decade fighting for the cause of same-sex marriage, will end its operations later this year. The group says its efforts will live on in future battles for gay rights.

The job of fighting for the rights of the gay community is far from over, but with a significant victory last Friday, one group is eyeing the finish line.

The Freedom to Marry Coalition, one of the first advocacy groups to fight for the right of same-sex couples to marry, will be winding down in the coming months, following last Friday’s Supreme Court victory legalizing same-sex marriage across the land.

“Freedom to Marry was created as a campaign to drive a needed strategy to attain a specific big goal. And today we achieved our goal,” Evan Wolfson, the group’s president and founder, told The Advocate last week.

The organization, which was founded in 2003, built on Wolfson’s work as one of the earliest figures to argue in favor of same-sex marriage. His Harvard Law School thesis, written way back in 1983 [PDF], was focused on the topic a solid two decades before the issue hit mainstream radars.

His group had a wide array of successes, most notably in New York, where one of the group’s advocacy campaigns helped lead to the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, in 2011. But the organization also faced major setbacks, particularly 2008’s passage of Proposition 8, in California, which was a blow to the movement—albeit one that later set the stage for Friday’s Supreme Court victory, through a number of legal victories.

I think we are the happiest unemployed people in the country right now.

What’s Next?

Now, with the key goal of its fight achieved, the organization will work to archive 12 years’ worth of work, putting a key political battle into the pages of history.

Despite the pending shutdown of the organization, the coalition’s employees seem happy to see the overall success of their mission.

“It’s pretty incredible,” said Cameron Tolle, the group’s director of digital action, in comments to BuzzFeed News. “I think we are the happiest unemployed people in the country right now.”

The shutdown of Freedom to Marry, however, shouldn’t be seen as a closing door for the gay rights movement as a whole—and in a New York Times op-ed published Friday, Wolfson said that the LGBT movement must now focus on other civil liberties issues, such as anti-discrimination efforts, which are largely in their infancy compared with same-sex marriage.

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Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson.

“Unlike at the start of the marriage work, polls show that a strong majority of Americans back explicit federal protection from anti-gay discrimination in the workplace,” Wolfson explained. “But—here’s the problem—nearly 90 percent don’t know that it does not exist.”

Ultimately, though, Wolfson emphasized that the lessons gained from his personal 32-year fight for same-sex marriage—and the decades-long battles that followed—can translate to these larger goals.

“While the campaign I lead—led!—has now succeeded and will close its doors, the work of our movement, and the broader quest for justice, is far from over,” he added.

(Matt Popovich/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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