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'Freedom to Marry' shows Evan Wolfson as marriage architect
by Sarah Toce
2017-05-24

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Widely considered the "architect of same-sex marriage," Evan Wolfson and his colleagues led a decades-long battle to win equal rights for LGBT people, culminating in a nationwide marriage equality victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. The National Law Journal, in 2000, named Wolfson one of "the 100 most influential lawyers in America," and Newsweek/The Daily Beast referred to him as "the godfather of gay marriage" at the time.

In 2012, Wolfson received the Barnard Medal of Distinction alongside then-President Barack Obama.

Wolfson's desire to change hearts and minds sprouted approximately than 34 years ago, in 1983, when he penned his third-year paper at Harvard Law on the subject of marriage equality. At the time, the bold concept was entirely taboo for the mainstream. After the AIDS crisis began to ravage the LGBT community, Wolfson revved up his efforts to fight for equal protections. He initiated the fights that would propel marriage equality to the forefront of legislative minds and then, in 2003, he founded the national organization Freedom to Marry, which spearheaded the movement's strategy.

The Freedom to Marry, a film by Eddie Rosenstein, is a tale of one of the most successful civil-rights movements in modern time. Wolfson was clear that the film's message reaches far beyond the scope of marriage equality.

"The film does a brilliant job of capturing not only how we were able to change hearts and minds and then the law and win the freedom to marry," he said, "but then can also be applied to other causes and movements in even other countries in the work ahead."

In reference to "the work ahead," Wolfson emphasized that it didn't particularly mean only LGBT rights. The lessons learned from winning marriage equality nationwide can be applied to "other causes, other movements and other countries."

It's important to take into account that a divided country ( some might even argue a divided world ) needs a lift from time to time.

"We all have many goals and many things we want in the world—including getting our country back on track," Wolfson said. "What makes me proudest about this film, and what I think the filmmaker did so well, was to capture not just stories of how we won the freedom to marry, but the lessons from that achievement that applies to other work still ahead."

The players in The Freedom to Marry include Wolfson; Mary Bonauto, civil-rights attorney from Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders; Bonauto's clients, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse; and Freedom to Marry National Campaign Director Marc Solomon.

"This film is now being shown by immigration groups, environmental groups, gun-control groups and in other countries precisely because it's not just about the United States winning marriage," Wolfson said. "This film is literally being used as a tool and an inspiration by other movements in other countries."

Screenings for A Freedom to Marry are currently scheduled in Boston, Concord, Woodstock, Pittsburgh, and Tel Aviv. The award-winning documentary was previously shown in San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta, Austin, Tampa, New York, Honolulu, Portland, Salt Lake City, and Dallas, among others. Interested parties wishing to schedule a screening may do so via https://freedomtomarrymovie.com/host-a-screening.

"We are not going backward," Wolfson said. "Our country is disastrously on the wrong track and there are many values in the communities that I'm sure most of us share that are under attack. This includes the inclusion and freedoms and rights of LGBT people. With all of that, it's important not to feel bad and make it worse. We are not going backward. Our country is in an enormously different and better place for gay and transgender people now than it was before. That momentum didn't vanish because Trump got into office."

In fact, a new Gallup poll dated May 15 reported that support for the freedom to marry is at an all-time high, even among Republicans.

"We've continued to build on what we achieved because it's the gift that keeps on giving."

Wolfson resides in New York City where he has been named a Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown Law Center where he teaches law and social change. Wolfson also serves as Senior Counsel at Dentons, the world's largest law firm, with 125-plus offices in over 50 countries.

Read more about Wolfson at FreedomToMarry.org/the-team/entry/Evan-Wolfson. Find out more about The Freedom to Marry film at freedomtomarrymovie.com .


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