Established on February 12, 1998, by the National Freedom to Marry Coalition, Freedom to Marry Day is an unofficial holiday centered on the right for lesbian and gay couples to marry. A civil rights movement event, Freedom to Marry Day sought to open up the discussion of gay marriage rights to the American public and instill a sense of understanding, allyship, and support.
History of Freedom to Marry Day
Created by Lambda Legal and a plethora of other gay and lesbian advocacy groups, the date of Freedom to Marry Day’s founding holds specific intention. Being the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the United States President who abolished slavery, it made sense for February 12 to play host for a civil rights advocacy holiday. Lambda Legal is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to seek full recognition of civil rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those living with HIV. Founded in 1973, they are the oldest and largest national legal organization to do so. Evan Wolfson, the head of Lambda’s Marriage Project, an attorney and gay rights activist, is also the founder and president of the Freedom to Marry movement. Freedom to Marry was a campaign that fought, and won, for the right of gay/lesbian marriage in the United States. Evans is considered the architect of the nationwide movement that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 26, 2015, to end marriage discrimination against same-sex couples. Though the campaign of Freedom to Marry, as their website puts it, “went out of business” after the Court’s ruling, the group did so out of accomplishment, not resignation. As Evans said in a celebratory speech on July 9, 2015, “The Freedom to Marry campaign is over, but the work for our movement, of our country, is far from done. And at this high point of life, we must all commit that it won’t stop here.”
How To Observe Freedom to Marry Day
Before The U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage a right protected by the Constitution, support for free marriage on Freedom to Marry Day was shown by “Tying the Knot.” A person would take a ribbon and knot it around trees, lamp posts, on buildings, doorknobs, and car antennae. People could also tie a knot around their ring finger or arm, or wear a knot on their lapel. The knot symbolized support for same-sex marriage equality. Although the campaign has ended, you can still donate to or volunteer your time to gay rights/human rights organizations and campaigns. Research advocacy groups near you and see what they’re about. There are still parts to play. Do what you can to play yours.