Evan Wolfson was the founder and president of Freedom to Marry. Wolfson was born in 1957 in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Wolfson was active in political and social justice causes from an early age. He attended Yale as an undergraduate and then served in the Peace Corps from 1978-1980 in West Africa. He returned to the United States and enrolled in Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he first developed the notion that securing marriage for same-sex couples was an important and necessary step in the broader movement of equality for gay men and lesbians. Wolfson worked as an assistant district attorney while also volunteering with Lambda Legal, the fledgling gay and lesbian legal defense organization. He later accepted a fulltime position as a litigator for Lambda and worked on many landmark cases, including Dale vs. Boy Scouts of America and many dealing with discrimination against people with AIDS. Wolfson played a key role in the Hawaii marriage cases in the 1990s which resulted in the first-ever trial in which the argument on behalf of extending marriage was given its first full hearing. Wolfson established Freedom to Marry in 2001 and the organization went public in 2003. Between 2003 and 2015, when Obergefell v. Hodges extended marriage nationwide to same-sex couples, Freedom to Marry served as a national campaign headquarters through which strategies were devised, messages crafted, and supporters mobilized. The campaign switched into high gear in 2009 and 2010 with the expansion of the organization and the hiring of new key staff members. All along, Wolfson served as the leader of his organization, working alongside movement partners at the legal and the political organizations. In this interview, Wolfson describes the formative experiences of his upbringing and education, in particular what motivated his decision to champion the extension of marriage when few in the gay movement thought it a worthy goal. He provides insight into the legal struggles of the 1980s and 1990s, when the challenges were many and the victories few. And he describes in depth the marriage movement through the lens of his work at Freedom to Marry. In particular, he discusses the development of a multi-dimensional strategy for winning marriage first in a handful of states and, ultimately, at the United States Supreme Court.




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