“Winning Marriage may well stand as the definitive political history of marriage equality. It’s certainly the book that leaders of the movement deserve, and that latecomers to the movement need... [continued in Reviews below]”—Slate
A no-holds-barred, from-the-trenches account of the campaign to win and protect the freedom to marry in America
Ten years ago no state allowed same-sex couples to marry, support for gay marriage nationwide hovered around 30 percent, and politicians everywhere thought of it as the third rail of American politics—draw near at your peril. Today, same-sex couples can marry in seventeen states, polls consistently show majority support, and nearly three-quarters of Americans believe legalization is inevitable.
In Winning Marriage Marc Solomon, a veteran leader in the movement for marriage equality, gives the reader a seat at the strategy-setting and decision-making table in the campaign to win and protect the freedom to marry. With depth and grace he reveals the inner workings of the advocacy movement that has championed and protected advances won in legislative, court, and electoral battles over the decade since the landmark Massachusetts ruling guaranteeing marriage for same-sex couples for the first time.
From the gritty battles in the state legislatures of Massachusetts and New York to the devastating loss at the ballot box in California in 2008 and subsequent ballot wins in 2012 to the joyous victories of securing President Obama’s support and prevailing in the Supreme Court, Marc Solomon has been at the center of one of the great civil and human rights movements of our time. Winning Marriage recounts the struggle with some of the world’s most powerful forces—the Catholic hierarchy, the religious right, and cynical ultraconservative political operatives—and the movement’s eventual triumph.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“Winning Marriage may well stand as the definitive political history of marriage equality. It’s certainly the book that leaders of the movement deserve, and that latecomers to the movement need to read. After each new pro-equality court ruling, Americans seem to look around in wonder and ask, How did we get here? With this riveting, passionate book, Solomon has provided the answer.” —Slate
“A brisk, readable, and often exhilarating first-person account of key battles that set the stage for today's astonishing momentum, it makes clear that parentage rights for this success belong to many."—Huffington Post
“Solomon’s narrative serves as a tribute to those who made gay marriage happen and as a manual for how to craft a successful political movement in the future.”—Publishers Weekly
“The book is more of a political science text than a history, giving a behind-the-scenes look at how influence, money, and connections drive the political system at the state level. The author offers the blow-by-blow story of Senate arguments and backroom negotiations. As one might expect from a work on such a controversial subject, the narrative covers not only the intellectual aspects of the political struggle but also offers emotional stories of the acceptance and rejection that led politicians to vote the way they did. The prose style is lean, fast, and to the point, interspersed with engaging psychological analysis.”—Library Journal
“Solomon wrote the book on winning marriage: It’s called Winning Marriage, and it’s a great read for political junkies, giving the full blow-by-blow of the underdog effort. Released last year, the book is getting a Supreme Court epilogue for its paperback edition this fall.”—The Atlantic
“Solomon’s campaign memoir delivers the first real picture of how the LGBT movement won marriage equality: through person-to-person moral suasion, on the one hand, and hardball politics, on the other."—Daily Beast
"While we await a national victory, Winning Marriage makes for good reading in the trenches. Solomon helps us measure the distance we have come and look forward to a time when we can put this battle behind us. The big win—equality for all—can’t come soon enough.”—Ms. Magazine
"A playbook for progressive causes."—U.S. News and World Report
“In Winning Marriage, Marc Solomon tells the riveting story of the long battle for marriage equality, with its strategic discipline and internal conflicts, principled leaders and committed adversaries, unexpected setbacks and lucky breaks. Even though I knew where each chapter would end, I was drawn into Marc’s detailed, carefully researched and deeply personal account -- and it left me wiping my eyes and pumping my fist. I can’t wait for the ultimate epilogue.”—Dee Dee Myers, former White House Press Secretary to Bill Clinton, contributing editor to Vanity Fair
“As one of the key players in the quest for marriage equality, Marc has an amazing story to tell. This movement was years in the making, yet the speed and manner in which opinion on the topic has changed is breathtaking. Marc’s ringside narrative of this achievement is inspiring and historic.”—Chris Anderson, curator of TED
“Marc Solomon's book is one of the most valuable I've read about the fight for legal equality for LGBT people. It is by far the best, and most accurate, of the accounts to legalize same-sex marriage. His narration demonstrates the crucial role that the intelligent, disciplined approach to the political process played in the successes we have won.”—Barney Frank, former U.S. congressman
“It’s hard to imagine a more thorough, lively account of the fight for marriage equality coming from someone who labored on the front lines for over a decade. Marc traces in careful detail the emergence of the first major social movement of this century in a way that will inspire activists on the side of justice and equality for decades to come.”—Chris Hughes, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic and co-founder of Facebook
“Winning Marriage is a deeply reported and deeply felt insider’s account of the marriage equality movement. Astute, committed, and fair-minded, Solomon’s story chronicles the political sea change on marriage equality. Solomon is an authoritative voice, observer, and participant. This is an important history about how America is changing.”—Bob Woodward
From the Book:
THE DECISION HEARD ROUND THE WORLD
November 18, 2003. Mary Bonauto, the 42-year-old civil rights project director at the New England legal defense organization Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), left her home in Portland, Maine at 6 AM. It was a cold, clear morning as she got in her maroon Chevy Prism for the 201 mile drive to Hartford, where she was scheduled to testify on a proposed law before a committee of the Connecticut legislature.
More than eight months earlier, on March 4, Bonauto had argued a marriage case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, a case that she had painstakingly assembled along with her colleagues at Boston-based GLAD. So many had been waiting with great anticipation for the ruling, which ordinarily came within 130 days of the oral arguments. On this one, however, the normal rules didn’t apply.
At 8 AM, Mary had just hit Boston when her phone rang. It was Evan Wolfson, the long-time marriage advocate who had been co-counsel in the landmark Hawaii marriage case in the 1990s that launched the international movement for the freedom to marry. Earlier that year, Wolfson had established Freedom to Marry, a national not-for-profit advocating for marriage for same-sex couples.
“It’s on the website,” Evan said.
“What’s on the website?” Mary asked him.
“The decision’s coming out,” Evan said. Today was the day.
Bonauto, whose smarts, discipline and relentless drive to win were packed into a slight, five-foot frame, had been GLAD’s first civil rights lawyer beginning in 1990. For years, Bonauto had heard first-hand the heartbreaking stories of same-sex couples, some together for decades, having to deal with indignities—like having blood relatives who had been out of touch for years swoop in after a death to claim property that the couple had shared for their entire lives, or needing blood relatives to rush across the country to make medical decisions because the life partner was not permitted to do so. She knew marriage would fix all of this, as well as serve as a marker of the full citizenship of gay and lesbian couples for whom the denial of marriage was a powerful indignity. But Mary held off for years on filing a marriage lawsuit, believing the courts weren’t yet ready.
After the Hawaii court ruled our way in 1996, Mary believed the time was right, not deterred by the fact that Hawaii voters in 1998 approved a constitutional amendment undoing the decision and giving the legislature the power to restrict gay couples from marrying. The Hawaii ruling also triggered Congress to pass the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, by the overwhelming margins of 342 to 67 in the House of Representatives and 85 to 14 in the Senate, and it was signed into law immediately by President Bill Clinton. That law established that the federal government would not recognize marriages of gay couples.
Ever the meticulous lawyer, Bonauto’s assessment was that of the six New England states she worked on, Vermont made the most sense to go first, a combination of the political legwork that had already been done and the relative difficulty to amend the state constitution. So she worked with two Vermont-based attorneys to identify three same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses in 1997, and when they were denied, the attorneys filed a suit on their behalf. Two years later, the Vermont supreme court ruled unanimously that the state’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples violated the Vermont constitution and ordered the Vermont legislature to either extend marriage laws to same-sex couples or to create a separate status that provided all of the state benefits and protections. The outcry in Vermont from our opponents was powerful. Lawmakers quickly took marriage off the table and instead settled on a new status called “civil union”—with all the state benefits and protections for gay couples. In the elections following, the “Take Back Vermont” movement campaigned against lawmakers who voted for the civil union law, defeating 16 and giving the GOP control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 16 years in what a University of Vermont political science professor called “a real, honest-to-goodness social issue bonfire.”
Following the Vermont ruling, Bonauto went right to work on a marriage case in Massachusetts. By April 2001, she was ready. Seven carefully vetted same-sex couples went to their town clerks to apply for marriage licenses. Each was denied. And on their behalf, Mary filed Goodridge et al vs. Department of Public Health, named for the lead plaintiffs, Julie and Hillary Goodridge, who had taken the surname of Hillary’s maternal grandfather just before the 1994 birth of their daughter. In oral argument, Mary explicitly repudiated civil union, stating that, “One of the most important protections of marriage is the word because the word is what conveys the status that everyone understands is the ultimate expression of love and commitment.”
After receiving Evan’s call, Mary pulled off the highway, told those expecting her in Hartford that she wouldn’t be able to make it, and instead headed to GLAD”s office in Boston. Shortly before 10, Mary walked along Boston’s famous Freedom Trail to the historic John Adams Courthouse, named for the author of the Massachusetts constitution, to pick up a copy of the opinion. Although opinions posted instantaneously to the Internet at 10, Mary didn’t want to stand around a computer with a bunch of others and scroll through it. She wanted to have a hard copy of the opinion handed to her in the way she was accustomed to, and wanted her own private moment looking at it.
- Slate's list of the best of 2014 (2014) Commendation
MARC SOLOMON is the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry where he directs programs to win marriage nationwide. In 13 years of work on marriage equality, he has led the campaign to protect marriage in Massachusetts and played key roles in New York, Illinois, California, New Hampshire, Maine, and elsewhere. He has innovated programs to make advances with both the Democratic and Republican Parties, and has led efforts to enlist elected officials and business leaders to the cause. He is a regular media spokesperson—on television and radio and in print.