Freedom to Marry Comes to Town

National Freedom to Marry Campaign hosts town hall Monday in ATX

Today, marriage equality exists in 35 states, while 15 – including Texas – are still assembling roadblocks against legalization.

Here in the Lone Star State, the past 10 months have been an equality guessing game. In February, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. But – unconstitutional or not – Garcia has since refused to lift the stay on the ban, arguing that allowing marriages “would only be temporary, with confusion and doubt to follow.”

With Garcia’s decision to wait for other states, or the Supreme Court, to legalize marriage, queer couples in Texas remain trapped in the state’s holding pattern limbo. But Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry – a nationwide campaign working to bring marriage equality to entire country – refuses to sit back and idly wait for the day when nine justices decide to end marriage discrimination.

On Monday, Wolfson along with former adviser to President George W. Bush, Mark McKinnon, the current Texas chair of Freedom to Marry, will host a town hall meeting right here in Austin. Couples (and plaintiffs) Mark Phariss & Vic Holmes, and Cleopatra De Leon & Nicole Dimetman will also be in attendance.

In preparation for Monday’s event, Wolfson took some time to talk to The Gay Place about bringing Freedom to Marry to the great state of Texas.

Austin Chronicle: What do you expect to come out of Monday’s town hall?

Evan Wolfson: Progress made across the country showcases the tangible indignity and injustice of the still-discriminating states. It’s a chance to highlight the fact that Texans are more supportive than we may think. Like the rest of the general public, Texans are changing their hearts and minds. It’s time for Lone Star State to have the same freedom that other Americans are granted.

Monday will be a chance for the community to come together to talk about the work we still need to do in Texas. It’s a reminder that, even though we are winning [the marriage equality battle], it’s not the same as won.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry (Photo by Freedom to Marry)

AC: How many other states are actively fighting Freedom to Marry?

EW: There are 15 that continue to discriminate – Texas is one of them. A majority can be found in the South; we just hosted a similar town hall in Florida. But then, both North and South Carolina have passed marriage equality. Texas is behind Oklahoma and New Mexico, as well. In fact, just across the border in Mexico, gay couples are able to marry. The state is surrounded by other places that are treating all families with the same respect.

On Monday, we’re going to underscore the importance of bringing freedom to marry to Texas.

AC: There’s a lot of talk about the Supreme Court taking on a marriage case in the next year, possibly one from Texas. If that happens, will federal marriage equality be granted?

EW: Well, it’s hard to know which case will make it to the Supreme Court and when, though, clearly, we’re calling on the courts to take a case. Families should not have to fight day-by-day, year-by-year for basic rights.

Every day of denial is a day of real hardship. But, in order to get these cases to the Court and passed in our favor, we have to make the strong case in the court of public opinion.

AC: Will Governor-Elect Greg Abbott be able to hinder marriage equality coming to Texas?

EW: Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to decide. Even if state officials want to resist, they won’t be able to. After all, that’s why we have courts: Sometimes politicians get it wrong.

Until then however, we wish they’d stop spending taxpayer money to discriminate against other sectors of the community.

AC: Why should Austin locals come to Monday’s town hall?

EW: People should come to find out how they can help bring freedom to marry to Texas, instead of being bystanders, waiting for it to waft in on hopes of inevitability. Attendees will learn some tools for making their voices heard in this fight.

AC: What kind of tools?

EW: Well, we’re going to name some organizations that community members can get involved with. We’ll share resources on how best to have these conversations with neighbors and, in general, people who are unsure about marriage equality.

We’ll also be elevating the Republican and conservative voices for freedom to marry. There’s individual work we can all do. Then, when we come together as a team we’ve done a lot of footwork.

AC: Is there anything else you’d like Gay Place readers to know?

EW: Sometimes people shy away from things that they think are too big, too complicated, or too guaranteed. To the contrary, Freedom to Marry never was impossible, but it’s still not inevitable. It’s time to be part of the campaigns to end marriage discrimination.

Freedom to Marry and Texas for Marriage will host Town Hall on Marriage, Monday, December 15, 6pm in the George & Alice Brown Conference Room at the LBJ Presidential Library.

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Freedom to Marry, Gay Marriage in Texas, Marriage Equality, Evan Wolfson, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia

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