“Some on the same-sex marriage side have shifted their attention and money to fight against religious liberty.” Susan Olasky
“The Gill, Overbrook, Ford, and Arcus foundations are now funding groups like the ACLU and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) to develop the most potent anti-religious-liberty messages.” Ibid
“Matthew Vines’ Reformation Project received $100,000 from the Gill Foundation in 2014 to weaken Christian resolve at its theological roots.” Ibid
MARRIAGE | Winning recognition for gay marriage in America was all about spinning the right message
by Susan Olasky, World magazine, Vol. 31, No. 17 – August 20, 2016
In 2012, President Barack Obama said in an ABC interview, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” A White House statement added detail: “It’s no secret the President has gone through some soul-searching on this issue. … He’s sat around his kitchen table with Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. … ‘And frankly,’ [Obama said,] ‘that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change of perspective.’”
Evan Wolfson, founder of national gay rights organization Freedom to Marry, lauded the statement. He had helped the White House craft it using research-tested elements: “We were thrilled that President Obama came out in support of marriage for same-sex couples using the love and commitment and journey framework that was proving so effective elsewhere.” Not talk about rights. Focus-group-tested talk about love. Love sells.
It’s hard to remember now, a year after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision declared a right to marry in all 50 states, how unlikely that result seemed just a decade ago. Gay marriage proponents had suffered one defeat after another at the ballot box. But activist groups and foundations turned things around with a strategic plan, a state-by-state strategy, and money—$153 million, they claim. Here’s the story of how that happened and what’s likely to happen next.
THE SUCCESS STORY BEGINS 16 YEARS AGO when the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, established with the Levi Strauss fortune and eager to push for LGBT acceptance, approached Lambda Legal attorney Evan Wolfson for advice on where the foundation should concentrate its giving.
For Wolfson the answer was simple: marriage. The gay, Yale-educated, Harvard-trained attorney had been on the forefront of gay rights legal battles ever since he wrote his 1983 Harvard Law thesis—for which he earned a B—on the right to marriage. In that year the idea of gay marriage was radical, even among allies on the left. Feminists were tearing down marriage. Gay activists channeled their energy to fighting AIDS and employment discrimination.
The 5-foot-6-inch Wolfson, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, Africa, thought differently. He believed “fighting for, let alone winning, the freedom to marry would propel equality and inclusion for gay people in ways nothing else could.” He had grown up with Democratic Jewish parents in Pittsburgh. He had so much self-confidence that he had invited President Richard Nixon to his bar mitzvah, despite his parents’ disapproval. (Nixon didn’t come, but he did send a note.) Wolfson was a practicing homosexual in Togo. If there’s a movie made of the marriage fight, an actor like Danny DeVito should play him.
After law school Wolfson moonlighted on gay rights cases and eventually worked full time with Lambda Legal. He acted as co-counsel in a challenge to Hawaii’s marriage law, defended a dismissed gay Boy Scouts leader, and challenged Vermont’s marriage law. By the time the Haas, Jr. Fund came calling, Wolfson had experienced both victories and defeats—and he convinced the foundation to give him $2.5 million to start a new organization, Freedom to Marry. By most accounts, Wolfson and Freedom to Marry led the fight that resulted in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. Continue reading