September 2013: OutCaster Travis talks with Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of the organization Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide. The case of Windsor v. United States, decided by the Supreme Court in June 2013, was a landmark case that invalidated Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Section 3 prevented the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages. The case arose when Edie Windsor was forced to pay more than $360,000 in taxes on the estate of her wife, Thea Spyer. If Thea had been a man, the federal government would have recognized the couple's marriage and Edie would not have had to pay the estate taxes. She sued the government, challenging the constitutionality of Section 3.
The Court's decision has broad ramifications on the status of marriage equality in the United States. Evan Wolfson is one of the key architects of the global marriage equality movement, and he joins us on OutCasting in this two-part episode to talk about the advances that the Windsor case represents.
Section 2 of DOMA still stands. That provision allows any state not to recognize the legal same-sex marriages of other states. This can result in couples' marriage rights and protections sputtering in and out like cellphone service as they travel from state to state, as Evan puts it. In the wake of Windsor, lower federal courts have ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. This issue will almost certainly come before the Supreme Court in the foreseeable future. A favorable ruling there could establish marriage equality nationwide.
During the 1990s, Evan served as co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case that launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry. Evan is the author of the book Why Marriage Matters — America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry, published by Simon and Schuster in 2004. In 2000, The National Law Journal named Evan one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America, citing his national leadership on marriage and his appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale. Newsweek and The Daily Beast dubbed Evan "the godfather of gay marriage," and Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
If you're interested in buying Evan's book, Why Marriage Matters, please consider buying it from an LGBT bookstore. These valuable community institutions are disappearing in an age of internet shopping, and a great deal is being lost. Here's a list.