In a blog post today, Andrew Sullivan hails Freedom to Marry and attacks the Human Rights Campaign for their respective roles in the national fight for marriage equality. I’m not going to do the traditional snip from his post because you need to read the full argument to really do it justice and it’s made in the context of a scathing book review.
I have no interest in defending the book (haven’t read it, don’t plan to) in this post or the overall record of either F2M or HRC. But the record needs correction in terms of the roles that each organization played here in Maryland if only to show that the overall picture is far more nuanced than Andrew presents. I was President of Equality Maryland at the time and in a reasonable position to know much of the background, so here goes.
Freedom to Marry was a barrier to progress in Maryland. Its leader, Evan Wolfson, had absolutely no faith in our ability to win a referendum. Even after President Obama endorsed marriage equality and polls showed that support increased further in our state–strongly Democratic and with a large share of African-American voters–Evan still remained adamantly opposed.
Not only did Evan refuse to invest in Maryland but his gatekeeper role with major donors made it much harder to raise the needed funds (note: I am not the anonymous source in the linked article). Even more galling, F2M continued to send fundraising emails into Maryland but never mentioned its unwillingness to get behind the referendum effort.
In contrast, HRC played an absolutely essential role here in Maryland, providing money and people vital to support our media and organizational efforts. I know it’s not Andrew’s favorite group (understatement) but its critical role in Maryland should be acknowledged and applauded.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also raised money and provided real leadership in the State. Of course, Equality Maryland had worked hard on this issue for a very long time and focused its efforts and resources virtually entirely on the referendum fight. Many others, such as the Maryland’s wonderful and large LGBT Caucus, the ACLU, NAACP, Latino organizations, and the unions also lent welcome and necessary support. It was a team effort.
We were all so happy and proud that night in 2012 when Maryland became the very first state to uphold marriage equality at the ballot box. I know Evan played a wonderfully positive role in other states and, more importantly, in building up organizational support for the overall movement. In short, he’s done a lot of good work.
But we won marriage in Maryland in spite of him.