Barnard College Commencement
Monday, May 14, 2012
New York City
Evan Wolfson. Attorney and activist. Hero of the charge for marriage equality and champion for the cause of civil rights for all.
Even as a kid, it never occurred to you that there were limits on what you could achieve. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Pittsburgh, then on to Yale, the Peace Corps, and Harvard Law School, where your 1983 thesis on gay marriage—at a time when the issue was not on the national radar—could easily be seen as prescient. In three decades since, every move you have made has been in service to your vision for equality and freedom. As assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, where you helped end race discrimination in jury selection. On the New York State Task Force on Sexual Harassment. As co-counsel in the pivotal Hawaii marriage case, and expert advisor in the Vermont case that established civil unions. In the fight for gays to serve our country, to adopt, to secure equal benefits. And in your brilliant argument before the Supreme Court of the United States in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, that proclaimed that banning gays was simply not an option.
As founder and president of Freedom to Marry, and with your seminal book, Why Marriage Matters, you have turned a once lonely march into a surging national movement. In 2011, New York joined the wave, and the win was transformative. When the state that welcomed your grandparents as immigrants in 1917 became the sixth and largest to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, the number of Americans with the freedom to marry more than doubled. The momentum in the direction of your dream is undeniable.
Today, we hail your extraordinary influence and your limitless commitment to the rights of every loving man and woman with the Barnard Medal of Distinction. To echo the iconic Martin Luther King, you are a drum major for justice… and a true inspiration.