Thursday, December 31, 2009

Freedom to Marry Celebrates A Remarkable Year

Freedom to Marry
December 31, 2009
Advances Across the Country Carry Momentum Into the New Year
2009 was the winningest year yet in the movement to achieve the freedom to marry for gay couples, a year which once again showed that momentum is on the side of equality. More legislatures than ever discussed the need to end the exclusion of gay couples from marriage, and three new states, including the first from the nation’s heartland (Iowa), won the freedom to marry for gay couples. The District of Columbia also enacted its own marriage equality law, which now awaits 30 legislative days of Congressional review. The national conversation continues as more than ever people across the country from all walks of life spoke out in support of the freedom to marry.

“More than 100 million Americans now live in places that provide the freedom to marry or, if not yet marriage itself, at least some state-level measure of recognition for same-sex couples and their loved ones -- up from virtually zero just a decade ago,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry. “2009 saw same-sex couples marrying not just on the coasts, but in America's heartland, and in 2009 the freedom to marry came, too, to our nation's capital. While we didn't win every battle this year, we saw more progress and more momentum. Each time any of us, gay or non-gay, speaks with the people in our lives about why marriage matters and how ending the denial of marriage is the fair way to treat all families as we each would want our own to be treated, we move hearts and minds. Conversations and commitment are the key to more progress in 2010, bringing America closer to liberty and justice for all.”

The year in numbers:

- Five states and the District of Columbia now have the freedom to marry for same-sex couples – tripling the number of jurisdictions that have ended discrimination in marriage. (Watch the Iowa celebration)

- Five state legislatures plus the City Council of DC voted on marriage bills, with 697 legislators voting in support of the freedom to marry (50% more than voted against it).

- Over 113 million Americans now live in a state with relationship recognition for gay couples, equaling over one-third (37-percent) of the United States population. (View the map)

- Every state legislator who has voted to support the freedom to marry and run for re-election since 2005, has never lost re-election due to their vote, representing over 1,100 state legislators. (View the report)

- 107 U.S. Congress members signed on as co-sponsors to the Respect for Marriage Act, which was introduced to repeal the discriminatory so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’.

The year in conversations:

- Former President Bill Clinton and former Republican Congressman Bob Barr came out in support of the freedom to marry and joined in the call to pass the Respect for Marriage Act which would repeal the discriminatory law Barr introduced and Clinton signed in 1996, the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ or DOMA.

- In celebration of the freedom to marry in its home state in 2009, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s symbolically renamed its iconic flavor ‘Chubby Hubby’ to Hubby Hubby .

- Phillip Spooner, an 86-year-old Republican World War II veteran gave testimony during Maine’s public hearing on marriage about how he fought at Omaha Beach to protect our nation’s freedoms such as marriage equality.

- United States Senator Chris Dodd wrote a compelling op-ed about how he has evolved his thinking and now supports the freedom to marry for gay couples.

- The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in support of the freedom to marry.

- NFL Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo wrote on the Huffington Post about why he personally supports marriage equality.

- Will Phillips, a 10-year-old from Arkansas, refused to pledge allegiance to the flag until gay people have equal rights. Will said, "I looked at the end and it said 'with liberty and justice for all.' And there really isn't liberty and justice for all. Gays and lesbians can't marry."

With the advent of the new year on Friday and the first moment when same-sex couples can legally wed in New Hampshire, supporters of the freedom to marry will be building on this growing foundation to further the gains made this year. Conversations will be redoubled and the work re-engaged, as together people of conscience move toward returning the freedom to marry to Maine and California, winning it anew in New Jersey and New York, laying the groundwork for wins in other states and increasing support for the Respect for Marriage Act and the now certain realization of achieving the freedom to marry for all across the country. [Link]

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