Evan Wolfson

June 24, 2015

Gratitude – a note from Civitas co-founder Bill Smith

Throughout a lifetime, there are only a handful of true societal breakthroughs — pivotal moments that will forever change people’s lives for the better. One of these moments is now at hand as we anticipate a landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that will hopefully affirm the freedom to marry for all Americans. At Civitas, many members of our team have had the privilege of working on this issue. We eagerly await this ruling along with the rest of the nation.

Robert Kennedy once said, “Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny.”

And while much work remains no matter how the Court rules, it is fitting now to thank and celebrate the work of those whose hands have brought us to this extraordinary moment — work not just in these heady days where the freedom to marry enjoys widespread support, but back when it was anything but inevitable.

I am grateful for the brilliant legal strategists like Matt Coles and Mary Bonauto who were conceiving the blueprint for my full equality before I knew I needed it. For Marc Solomon, Lee Swislow, Marty Rouse, and the Massachusetts patriots who protected our first major marriage win in the face of endless attacks through seven (!) constitutional conventions.

For the relentless New England powerhouses Anne Stanback and Beth Robinson, who led Connecticut and Vermont, respectively, to critical victories.

For my principled friend and Civitas co-founder Patrick Guerriero, who created a space on the political right-of-center for conservatives to speak out with integrity when it wasn’t popular on the left or the right. And for being a steady and wise collaborator in executing a state-by-state strategy to win.

For Camilla Taylor and Sharon Malheiro who engineered the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous decision for equality by focusing on the impact of marriage on the children and families of same-sex couples. And for Brad Clark’s political leadership in protecting the decision.

For David Mixner, whose keen sense of history gave much needed perspective to countless leaders and activists after stumbles and defeats seemed to mask the path to victory. For Ted Trimpa who spent a decade building critical relationships with elected officials around the country and leveraging those relationships at key moments.

For legislative strategists like Emily Giske who counted the votes to victory in New York, and Liz Purdy, who led the decisive win in New Hampshire when opponents attempted to take marriage away.

For Ken Mehlman and Paul Singer and his political team, who led unprecedented GOP and business outreach for New York and subsequent campaigns across the country.

For Matt McTighe, Zach Silk, Richard Carlbom, Josh Levin, and the campaigns in Maine, Washington, Minnesota, and Maryland that unambiguously declared that equality was a winner at the ballot box.

For Tim Gill who deftly and cheerfully led us through wins and losses to build unprecedented political power, and for the network of donors and activists across the country he inspired and empowered. Tim made it possible for me to be a part of this struggle, and remains my hero.

For Edie Windsor and her brilliant attorney Robbie Kaplan who brought down the odious Defense of Marriage Act, starting the cascade of state wins that have dominated headlines in the last two years.

For the families who showed up in statehouses across the country to tell their stories and plaintiffs who courageously put their names and families on the line in the cases from the 1970’s until today. For the unnamed leaders, early activists, courageous jurists, elected officials, and generous donors from across the country who deserve our thanks.

And as we turn our attention to our nation’s highest court, I’d like to share one of my favorite pictures from my own wedding last spring, show above. It’s of the relentless, irrepressible, and visionary Evan Wolfson, and his husband Cheng He, quietly taking it all in from the very back row.

In recent months I keep coming back to this picture in my mind, hoping that Evan is truly able to take it all in after 32 years of advocacy and leadership. He has never taken his eyes off the prize, and we are forever in his debt.

Have a great week, and please join me in a moment of celebration and gratitude for these and all those heroes in your life who work to change the world for the better.

– Bill Smith