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Local activist chronicles history of marriage equality in new book
Special to the online edition of Windy City Timesby Nina Matti
2016-08-30

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Advocating for social justice is in Leslie Gabel-Brett's DNA.

As a feminist and lesbian, she's always worked hard to advance the rights of women and LGBTQ people. She has worked at Lambda Legal, a law firm dedicated to serving LGBTQ people, for the past 10 years and now serves as its director of the education and public affairs.

Recently, she harnessed her expertise on the legal side of the battle for marriage equality to edit Love Unites Us: Winning the Freedom to Marry in America alongside Kevin Cathcart.

"I really wanted a book that told a story about the movement and the decades and the number of people and the strategies that all came together to secure the right to marry for same-sex couples across the country," Gabel-Brett said. "It took a long time, longer than most people recognize. It took a lot of people, organizations, visionaries [and] activists all working together in different ways over those decades to secure victory in the Supreme Court Case last year."

Each chapter comes from different contributing authors- lawyers, plaintiffs and others who were directly involved in the cases.

"It was very inspiring and energizing to read the personal, detailed accounts of the contributing authors... [and to see] how much persistence and dedication people had in getting to this goal," Gable-Brett said. "People kept at it with a great deal of heart and strategic vision. It's a very inspiring story."

For Gabel-Brett, the fight for marriage equality was more than just an abstract legal battle. The 2003 Massachusetts case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health resulted in a ruling that made it possible for her to marry her partner of 25 years, Carolyn. "For us it was a civil-rights decision, a decision about equality," she said. "We already knew we were a long-term committed couple, but now we're a married couple. So that was exciting and had a pretty direct impact on my life."

Although Gabel-Brett said marriage equality is a vital step toward achieving equality for LGBTQ people, "There's a lot of work ahead," she said, "and we have to be strong and dedicated. There's nothing going on that says, 'Go ahead and take a break. You've won.' The attacks against us are very real and very dangerous. We're prepared, I think, to defend our freedoms and secure equality, but it's still a fight."


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