Evan Wolfson

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Evan Wolfson

Evan Wolfson
Born February 4, 1957 (1957-02-04) (age 62)
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality Jewish
Occupation Attorney, activist

Evan Wolfson (born February 4, 1957) is a Jew, an attorney and homosexual activist. He is the founder and executive director of Freedom to Marry, a group advocating homosexual marriage. Wolfson, who many consider to be the father and leader of the homosexual marriage movement,[1] authored the book Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry, which Time Out New York magazine called, "Perhaps the most important gay-marriage primer ever written..."[2] He was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. He has taught as an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, Rutgers Law School, and Whittier Law School and argued before the Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale.


Wolfson was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Pittsburgh. He graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in 1974[3] and Yale College in 1978. At Yale, he was a resident of Silliman College, a history major, and Speaker of the Yale Political Union. After graduation he served in the Peace Corps in Togo, in western Africa. He returned and entered Harvard Law School, where he earned his Juris Doctor in 1983. Wolfson also wrote his 1983 Harvard Law thesis on homosexual marriage, long before the question gained national prominence.[4] On October 6, 2010, he returned to the Yale Political Union to debate the issue of homosexual marriage against opponent Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.[5][6]

Early career

Wolfson taught political philosophy at Harvard College before he returned to his birthplace as Kings County (Brooklyn) assistant district attorney, prosecuting sex crimes and homicides, as well as serving in the Appeals Bureau. There, he wrote a Supreme Court amicus brief that helped win a nationwide ban on race discrimination in jury selection (Batson v. Kentucky). Wolfson also wrote a brief to New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, that helped win the elimination of the marital rape exemption (People v. Liberta).[7]

Following the District Attorney’s Office, Wolfson served as Associate Counsel to Lawrence Walsh in the Office of Independent Counsel (Iran/Contra). In 1992, he served on the New York State Task Force on Sexual Harassment.[7]

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

From 1989 until 2001 Wolfson worked full-time at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a homosexual activist organization. He directed their Marriage Project and coordinated the National Freedom to Marry Coalition, the forerunner to Freedom to Marry. Wolfson co-wrote an amicus brief in Baehr v. Miike, in which the Supreme Court of Hawaii said prohibiting homosexual marriage in the state constituted discrimination, and worked on Baker v. Vermont, the Vermont Supreme Court case that led to the creation of civil unions in Vermont by the state legislature as a compromise between Wolfson's group and those objecting to homosexual marriage. Wolfson called the unions a "wonderful step forward," but not enough.[8]

Wolfson appeared before the United States Supreme Court on April 26, 2000, to argue on behalf of Scoutmaster James Dale in the landmark case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, in which the Court ruled that the Boy Scouts organization had the right to expel Dale for revealing that he was homosexual through their First Amendment rights. The justices questioned Wolfson "aggressively."[9][dead link] The Court ruled 5-4 against Dale, but Wolfson, said, "Even before we change the [Boy Scout] policy, we are succeeding in getting people to rethink how they feel about gay people."[8] Dale said of Wolfson: "Evan understood the importance of the organization to me, and the importance of an American institution like the Boy Scouts discriminating against somebody and how that could impact the public dialogue and conversation."[8]

Freedom to Marry

Main article: Freedom to Marry

On April 30, 2001, Wolfson left Lambda to form Freedom to Marry with a "very generous" grant from the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund.[8]

In 2003 Time Magazine described him as symbolic of the homosexual movement.[10] [11] In 2004 Time included Wolfson on its list of the "100 most influential people in the world."[10]

Wolfson does not favor the civil union or domestic partnership approaches, because semantic differences create "a stigma of exclusion" and deny homosexual couples "social and other advantages."

Personal life

Wolfson and his "husband" Cheng He, a change-management consultant with a Ph.D. in molecular biology,[12][13] reside in New York City. They "married" on October 15, 2011.[14]

Selected propaganda writings

  • When the police are in our bedrooms, shouldn't the courts go in after them?: An update on the fight against "Sodomy" laws, (with Robert S. Mower); 21 Fordham Urban Law Journal 997 (1994).
  • Crossing the Threshold: Equal Marriage Rights for Lesbians and Gay Men and the Intra-Community Critique, 21 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 567 (1994).
  • The Supreme Court's Decision in Romer v. Evans and its Implications for the Defense of Marriage Act, (with Michael Melcher), 16 Quinnipiac Law Review 217 (1996).
  • Symposium: The Right to Marry: Making the case to go forward: Introduction: Marriage, Equality and America: Committed Couples, Committed Lives, 13 Widener Law Journal 691 (2004).
  • Why Marriage Matters; America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry, Simon & Schuster hardcover edition printed July 27, 2004.
  • Marriage Equality and Some Lessons for the Scary Work of Winning, 14 Law & Sexuality 135 (2005).


  1. July 26, 2010: http://www.abanet.org/irr/hr/hrsummer2009.pdf
  2. Simon & Schuster website with quotes from reviews.
  3. Mervis, Scott (October 11, 2012). "Gary Graff: Rock 'n' roll observer". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/music/gary-graff-rock-n-roll-observer-657034/. 
  4. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2010. http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/wolfson_evan.html
  5. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2010. http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/10/04/Wolfson_Gallagher_to_Debate_at_Yale/
  6. http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/winter/the-hard-liners
  7. 7.0 7.1 Evan Wolfson biography on the Freedom to Marry website.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Peter Freiberg, Wolfson leaves Lambda to focus on freedom-to-marry work, March 30, 2001, Washington Blade, via Freedom to Marry's Geocities website. (archived copy at oocities.com/evanwolfson/ftm_washblade.htm
  9. Matt Alsdorf, Supreme Court Hears Boy Scout Case, The Advocate, April 26, 2000, via Planetout.com.
  10. 10.0 10.1 John Cloud, Gay Marriage as a Civil Right of Our Times, Time Magazine, April 26, 2004, via Time.com.
  11. William Saletan, The Peculiar Institution, The New York Times, September 26, 2004; Section 7, Page 9.
  12. Kendell, Kate For Evan Wolfson, an 'I Do' Filled With 'I Did', The Advocate 13 October 2011
  13. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/fashion/weddings/evan-wolfson-and-cheng-he-vows.html
  14. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/fashion/weddings/evan-wolfson-and-cheng-he-vows.html?pagewanted=all

External links

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