Non-Gay and Gay Groups Across Country Observe First National Freedom to Marry Day

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'From Anchorage to Atlanta,' lesbians, gay men, & allies celebrate growing support for equal civil marriage rights on February 12
February 6, 1998

(NEW YORK, February 6, 1998) -- Love and equality, the themes of Valentine's Day and Lincoln's Birthday, will frame the first National Freedom to Marry Day on Thursday, February 12. Lesbians and gay men across the country, joined by growing numbers of non-gay people, will call for an end to discrimination in civil marriage.

The first National Freedom to Marry Day is being held in support of the struggle to allow same-sex couples access to civil marriage. Gatherings in large and small communities, with symbolic weddings, city hall ceremonies, and other events, are planned.

"From Anchorage to Atlanta, non-gay and gay Americans will celebrate National Freedom to Marry Day, part of the continuing national dialogue about allowing lesbian and gay couples to share in the commitment and responsibilities of civil marriage," said Evan Wolfson, marriage project director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Nationwide, the diverse events on February 12 will include:

  • San Francisco - Proclamation ceremony in the Mayor's office, which has declared February 12 "National Freedom to Marry Day"
  • Los Angeles - "Tying the Knot" news conference by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and large interfaith prayer breakfast hosted by the United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
  • New York City - "Family Ties" news conference featuring religious leaders, celebrity allies, and diverse couples
  • Las Vegas - Candlelight St. Valentine's Day religious service in honor of lesbian and gay couples
  • Denver - Family potluck dinner
  • Kansas City, MO - "Just married" procession of cars
  • Cedar Rapids, IA - Freedom-to-marry teach-in
  • Cambridge, MA - Colloquium/Action at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government
  • Mississippi - News conference on local concerns by a group at the University of Southern Mississippi
  • Atlanta - Wedding-cake celebration
  • Montana - Statewide letter-writing campaign for families

Plus campus rallies at schools across the country, as well as actions planned in Seattle and central Washington; Portland, OR; Juneau, Fairbanks, and Anchorage, AK; Sacramento and San Diego; Reno; South Dakota; Appleton, WI; Minneapolis; West Virginia; Dallas; Charlotte, NC; Washington, DC; Maryland; New Jersey; Hartford, CT; Kutztown and Philadelphia, PA; and Fairfax, VA.

"Valentine's Day and Lincoln's Birthday provide the perfect themes for this day -- love and equality," Wolfson said, adding, "The choice of whom to marry belongs to couples in love, not to politicians or pressure groups."

The Supreme Courts of Hawaii and Vermont are now considering challenges to the discrimination that has prevented same-sex couples from legally marrying in all fifty states. At the same time, an organized right-wing backlash campaign has sponsored discriminatory laws in several states and in Congress, declaring that even once lesbian and gay couples do get legally married, their marriages should be treated as second-class.

While the legal and political battles continue, the real change has been taking place in people's hearts and minds. Non-gay people have begun considering something most had never had to think about before: how the denial of civil marriage harms real-life couples.

In 1997, both Newsweek and USA Today reported that opposition to gay people's freedom to marry had fallen to 56% in the general public.

Recently, more and more non-gay Americans have spoken out in support of gay people's freedom to marry, including civil rights heroes such as Coretta Scott King, Congressman John Lewis, and Gloria Steinem; religious leaders such as the Reverend James Forbes and the Right-Reverend John Spong; celebrities such as Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt, Ted Danson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Chita Rivera; and literally hundreds of civil rights groups, civic leaders, businesses, and congregations nationwide. One major feature of National Freedom to Marry Day will be unveiling the growing list of signatories to the Marriage Resolution, a one-sentence statement of support for the freedom to marry (list available from Lambda).

In addition, many of the celebrants of National Freedom to Marry Day will participate in a show of support by "Tying the Knot" -- knotting ribbons around trees, lamp posts, buildings, door knobs, and car antennae. Individuals are asked to tie a knot around their ring finger or arm, or to wear a knot on their lapel.

The day is announced by the National Freedom to Marry Coalition, which includes Lambda, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the National Organization of Women, and Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays, as well as hundreds of non-gay and gay local and state partners across the country.


For more information contact:
Christopher Calhoun at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center (213) 860-7357
Lambda 212-809-8585, Evan Wolfson, pager, 888-987-1976
GLAAD (212) 807-1700; HRC (202) 628-4160
PFLAG (202) 638-4200
NGLTF (202) 332-6483
GLAD (617) 426-1350
ACLU (212) 549-2561
Empire State Pride Agenda (212) 627-0305
Lesbian & Gay Advocates for Change (212) 206-7086
New York City Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center (212) 620-7310


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