Author Marc Solomon took his book tour to Organizing for Action ( OFA ) on Dec. 15 for the Chicago launch of his book "Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—and Won."
"It's really powerful being at OFA and having the event here," said Solomon of the Freedom to Marry and Equality Illinois event. "One of the reasons why Illinois is such an important part of the book is because we had the crucial legislative victory here because President [Barack] Obama, the gay and lesbian people in his life, are largely from right here in Chicago. So, having people in this room who are some of the people who influenced the president was really powerful and meaningful and their voices helped even the president move along."
Solomon is the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, a non-profit advocacy organization founded in New York City 2003 that campaigns for the right of same-sex marriage across the United States. With a background in advocacy, public policy and media, Solomon previously served as a policy adviser to Senator Jack Danforth ( R-MO ) in Washington, D.C. and as a researcher for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. His political philosophy evolved from right-of-center to progressive and he has been working on the fight for marriage equality for the last 13 years.
"I've always been a political animal, strategist, activist," said Solomon. "I've always been super involved in politics and so it was really exciting to turn everything I knew and all of my own political skills to fighting for this cause. I just really focused and dedicated myself to the cause. There's nothing I'd rather be doing."
About 40 people gathered in the space where Solomon discussed his work, politics, efforts taken to influence political figures, and what still needs to be done.
The excerpts Solomon selected to read highlighted conversations various Illinois residents had with Obama in years past during his senate campaign and presidency. Some of the people who shared their voices for the book, were in attendance. Solomon added the conversations featured in his writing document Obama's evolution on gay marriage. Following the reading the author answered questions and signed copies of the book.
"Winning Marriage," Solomon explained, is about the hard work that was done as "same sex couples made the case for why they should be able to marry and how we together created a movement that has leveraged power and enabled us to prevail."
Yoni Pizer and Brad Lippitz were present that evening to hear their anecdote read aloud. The married couple currently resides in Chicago with their two children. In 2008, they hosted a large fundraiser in their home while Obama was senator. At their home that day, Obama complimented the beautiful home. Although Lippitz said he was glad he liked the house, he voiced it was more important to him that if Obama won the election and made it to the White House he remember his and Pizer's family. Pausing on the stairs and looking at the family photos on the wall, it seemed Obama understood the sentiment.
"I think Marc has done a great job crystallizing the movement and the march toward full equal marriage and what it means for the community and what it means for equal rights," said Lippitz. "It's really been a lifelong pursuit of ours to be treated as equals and I'm gratified that we've reached this point. I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime and I'm happy that we have."
"I think he [Obama] understood the importance of us being there and raising a lot of money for him and supporting him and he understood," Pizer said. "At that point, in 2008, he was still saying he supported civil unions, but not marriage and he said at the event he thought it was just going to take time and it was a demographic issue that the younger generation is more pro-equal marriage rights and that as time went on it was going to become more and more possible for us to get this done."
Solomon expressed that while same-sex couples are in a great place with extraordinary victories, he is still concerned with people being complacent and feeling like the fight is finished. Throughout the reading he emphasized the hard work of civil rights.
"We now have 35 states, two-thirds of the country living in a freedom to marry state, 60 percent of Americans who support the freedom to marry, but we need to finish the job," Solomon said.
Solomon credits his inspiration to the idea that LGBT people, like himself, should be treated as full equals with the freedom to choose to get married. Meeting and learning the stories of senior LGBT couples who have been together for decades and never thought gay people would be able to marry also inspires him.
"It shows people what it really takes to win a civil rights battle and it's really hard work," said Solomon of his fondest hopes for "Winning Marriage." "I really want to show the hard, granular work of civil rights and I want to show, with humility, the story of our fight and how we've been able to leverage power so that other movements can learn from what we've figured out and hopefully apply it to the causes their focused on, whether it's income inequality, climate change, immigration reform, gun violence prevention, or another cause."
For more information on Solomon and "Winning Marriage," visit: http://www.marcsolomon.com/.
See Windy City Times interview at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Making-his-Marc-Author-Solomon-recalls-winning-marriage/49847.html .