National Freedom to Marry Day Sparks Action Across the Country

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February 12: lesbians, gay men, and supporters plan ways to reach America's hearts and minds
February 8, 1999

(NEW YORK, February 9, 1999) -- Spurred by challenges and opportunities at the voting booth and in court, lesbians, gay men, and non-gay freedom-to-marry supporters across the country are marking the second annual National Freedom to Marry Day with simultaneous events designed to reach out to the non-gay community to enlist more support.

On Friday, February 12, same-sex couples, their families, friends, clergy, and other supporters will celebrate National Freedom to Marry Day with special events in almost 70 cities in over 30 states.

"From Boston, Massachusetts, to Butte, Montana, and everywhere in between, gay and non-gay people are joining together for diverse events to demonstrate that our drive toward winning the freedom to marry is only growing in strength,"said Lambda Marriage Project Director Evan Wolfson.

Begun in 1998, National Freedom to Marry Day falls on Abraham Lincoln's Birthday and before Valentine's Day, combining the themes of equality and love. The February 12 commemoration prompts innovative events to build non-gay support for this basic civil right for lesbian and gay couples.

The second annual National Freedom to Marry Day comes just three months after voters in Hawaii and Alaska voted to write discrimination into their respective state constitutions by approving amendments that threaten the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Despite these injustices, historic cases that could open the door to the freedom to marry for lesbian and gay couples remain under consideration by the highest courts of both Hawaii and Vermont.

In California, state Senator Pete Knight has succeeded in placing a voter initiative on the March, 2000, ballot that seeks to discriminate against the lawful marriages of same-sex couples. Californians are assembling a coalition to defeat the measure, which has already been denounced as "divisive" by the California Democratic Party.

Said Lambda Legal Director Beatrice Dohrn, "Winning support in the court of public opinion is more important than winning in the legislatures or courts of law. We must take our message to the streets. National Freedom to Marry Day is an ideal opportunity to reach out to non-gay people and make the allies we need to win our freedom to marry."

Freedom to Marry Day 1999 events range from prayer vigils to symbolic weddings; at one California mall, free chocolate roses carrying the freedom-to-marry message will be handed out to shoppers. The day's events include:

þ San Francisco: Mayor Willie Brown honors Rev. Donald Fado and 94 other Methodist priests who, in an act of "ecclesiastical disobedience," last January blessed a Sacramento lesbian couple's union.

þ Los Angeles: A day focused on building public opposition to the anti-marriage Knight Initiative begins with Interfaith breakfast with over 50 Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist clergy, then award ceremony for spiritual leaders who have contributed to the freedom-to-marry struggle; that evening includes "Be My Valentino" performance by Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.

þ Modesto, California: Local PFLAG members "Take it to the Mall," hand out lovely chocolate roses with freedom-to-marry messages to shoppers, from information table festooned with wedding cake, decorations and information.

þ Boston (Feb. 11): The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry holds a prayer breakfast, followed by a news conference in front of the Massachusetts statehouse (where an anti-marriage bill is pending); the Coalition releases a statement signed by over 150 clergy from across the state calling for equal civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

þ New York: in connection with Black History Month, The Real Read, a Chicago-based gay African- American performance troupe, performs at New York University, focusing on freedom to marry, racism, sexism, and HIV/AIDS prevention; audience discussion to follow.

þ Washington, D.C.: Marriage Equality Church Service, sponsored by Metropolitan Community Church. Also Commitment Ceremony and information table at American University.

þ Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Coe College students hold wedding reception and celebration geared towards local lesbian and gay youth. Organizers want to counter the divisive public debate over recently passed civil rights ordinance.

þ Juneau: The 35-women of Juneau Pride Chorus sing for marriage equality at Juneau Nugget Mall; local members of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays distribute freedom-to-marry literature.

þ Albuquerque (Feb. 16): Lobbying at the Roundhouse and "Love Makes a Family" photo exhibit featuring lesbian and gay couples, sponsored by Emmanuel Metropolitan Community Church while legislators consider an anti-marriage bill.

þ Galesburg, Illinois: Freedom-to-marry community forum and discussion.

þ Akron, Ohio: Freedom-to-marry caravan stops at malls and government buildings.

þ Colorado Springs: All Soul's Unitarian Church holds special service supporting freedom to marry.

þ Cambridge (Feb. 13): Harvard Law School hosts conference.

þ Butte, Montana (Feb. 13): Second annual freedom-to-marry Valentine's Day dance to include a public commitment ceremony and renewal of vows for same-sex couples.

More events are planned in Anchorage and Sitka, Alaska; Las Vegas; Berkeley, Highland, Long Beach, Oakland, Pomona, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle and Ellensburg, Washington; Tucson, Arizona; Pueblo, Colorado; Fargo, North Dakota; St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri; Lawrence, Kansas; Houston, Dallas; Bloomington, and Greencastle, Indiana; Joliet, and Galesburg, Illinois; Milwaukee, and Appleton, Wisconsin; Mt. Pleasant, Michigan; Storrs, Connecticut; Philadelphia, and University Park, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, Geneva, and Rochester, New York; Baltimore; Farmville and Roanoke, Virginia; Cleveland, Dayton, and Oxford, Ohio; Savannah, Georgia; Birmingham, and Mobile, Alabama; and St. Petersburg, Boca Raton, New Port Richey, Orlando, and Key West, Florida.

Clergy, lesbian and gay couples, and individuals are available to speak with the media regarding the importance of the freedom to marry; contact the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation at (212) 807-1700 to arrange an interview. Contact local organizers or Lambda at 212-809-8585 for information regarding individual events.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund -- Evan Wolfson 212-809-8585 ext. 205, pager (888) 987-1976
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation -- Wonbo Woo (212) 807-1700 ext. 24, pager (917) 240-3710
Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center -- Christopher Calhoun (323) 860-7352 or Corri Planck (213) 860-7357
Metropolitan Community Church Candice Shultis or James Burkitt, (202) 360-8640
Human Rights Campaign -- David Smith (202) 628-4160
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- Janice Hughes (202) 638-4200
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force -- Tracey Conaty (202) 332-6483
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders -- Andrea Hildebran (617) 426-1350
American Civil Liberties Union -- Emily Whitfield (212) 549-2566
Empire State Pride Agenda -- Tim Sweeney (212) 627-0305
New York City Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center -- Dan Willson (212) 620-7310
Marriage Equality New York -- Patty Penalosa (718) 853-1836, (917) 822-4005, (212) 946-1565

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