Protecting marriage equality

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Joe Biden and Evan Wolfson in July 2015
Then Vice-President Joe Biden and Evan Wolfson in July 2015, following the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States.

My friends at Out Leadership reached out to ask me if I’d be “interested in writing a letter on the threats to marriage equality in the United States.”

But one of my main precepts of activism is “Don’t dwell on the problem; focus on the pathway.”

Are there votes on the Republican-packed Supreme Court to undo the gains we have won? Sure. Justices Thomas and Alito have made clear they would like to continue rolling back Americans’ freedoms, from contraception and sexual intimacy to the right to vote and, yes, the freedom to marry, too.

Despite the majorities we built in favor of the freedom to marry — including even majorities among older voters and those still willing to call themselves Republicans — are there still those who would legislate attacks on gay and trans people? Yes, and they wield disproportionate power in too many states, in the Electoral College, in the current Congress, and on the courts.

Could the freedom to marry be stripped away? Despite the historic passage of Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Respect for Marriage Act in 2022, to a limited extent yes. History, and current events, caution that bad things can happen — and we have all seen the overturning of Roe v. Wade and assaults on too many vulnerable Americans, including women, people of color, immigrants, the poor, workers, and transgender people.

But, as President Biden would say, here’s the thing: We don’t need to spend any time and energy worrying about what more bad things could happen, when what we are confronting is already bad enough. The threat to the freedom to marry is indeed real, just like the attacks on other freedoms. But the even bigger and more imminent danger we need to address is the threat to our democracy itself, and if we address that danger and the things that are already bad enough, we defend and reinvigorate our democracy and thereby protect ourselves and our freedom to marry as well.

Wallowing in threats is not my approach to activism. What we should all do this year – with urgency, determination, and hope — is everything we can to ensure that Americans turn out to vote and the Democrats win the elections. Then, as with our marriage win, we build on that through legislation, structural reform, more empowerment, and, as always, continued persuasion.

Pictured above (from left to right): Evan Wolfson speaks at the 2022 OutNEXT Summit hosted by Citi.
I say vote Democratic not because the Democrats are perfect or always where they should be (though I am proud to support President Biden and the Democrats in Congress who are running on an impressive record of accomplishment, despite Republican obstruction and decay, as well as Democrats in state houses working hard to block the waves of assaults and regression pushed by too many Republican legislators and governors).

I say this year vote Democratic and — each in our own way — turn out every vote for the Democrats possible, because that is the only vote Americans can cast this year for democracy.

Our movement’s triumph in winning the freedom to marry is looked to as a model for other important causes here in the US and globally. We are celebrated for our achievement in persuasion: the decades-long transformation of hearts and minds we delivered to be harnessed for our victory and the work still ahead. But we won by combining persuasion with legal strategy and political engagement. And this year, the priority for continued progress as well as defense is electing those who will represent our vision; choose the judges and policies we deserve; and repudiate Trump, Putin, their confederates and enablers, and all the real threats to liberal democracy here and around the world.

Worried about the threats to marriage equality? The call to action is clear: Get out the vote.

Let’s win (again).