The irony for most of us in the NGO world is that we work for our own extinction. We crave obsolescence. And we do it with the certainty that our efforts will not in fact become redundant in our own lifetimes.
We will not taste the victory of an end to hunger, poverty, homelessness, AIDS, animal abuse. Nuclear weapons will not be abolished.
But then there’s Freedom to Marry, which closed its doors, jubilantly, in July 2015. Freedom to Marry, a non-profit that advocated for the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, actually won. Its staff could pronounce, with no hint of irony or Bushian BS, “mission accomplished.”
And so its founder and leading light, Evan Wolfson, closed the doors. Not that the fight for marriage equality is completely over. The law of the land continues to be challenged by those on the religious right who would seek to circumvent it.
But other equality fights remain. And so a new group has emerged to take them on — Freedom For All Americans — helmed by Matt McTighe, who had led the successful ballot initiative for marriage equality in Maine.
Freedom For All Americans is not a direct offshoot of Freedom to Marry but its logical progenitor, and with a single purpose: to secure comprehensive protections from discrimination.
The single, rather than multi-issue, focus, explained McTighe when we talked recently, differentiates Freedom For All Americans from other national groups. The non-discrimination agenda is important, says McTighe because “only 17 states currently have full, 100 per cent protections for every issue.”
Freedom For All Americans must also work across both aisles because, as McTighe points out, “in most places that we have to do this work, the legislatures are solidly Republican.” They work “state by state,” he said, in search of “incremental victories.”
And he is resolutely focused on the positive. “We cannot just play defense,” he said. “We have to give people something they can be for.” That, he said, was the winning formula for Freedom to Marry.
A big part of that is training people to tell their stories as well as resourcing communities so that they can advocate for themselves. As a national group, said McTighe, they want to do more than just parachute in and out without supplying in-state activists with the necessary skills and tools for the long haul.
With the current flurry of ugly bills in statehouses across the country threatening to batten down freedoms for LGBT citizens, McTighe and his team will have little if any down time.
Wolfson is not staying idle either. In true activist style, he cannot retire to a deckchair in the sun with a margarita and call it a day. Or at least, not for more than a day.
So Wolfson is taking his Freedom To Marry campaign across the globe, everywhere from Italy to India. Most recently, he has been in Japan where he tweeted he was “very hopeful for progress.” The trip was part of what he has dubbed his Rainbow Tours. Hopefully he won’t have to wait yet more decades for that next pot of victory gold.
Photo Credit: freedomforallamericans.org