elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Evan Wolfson & Cheng He

Evan Wolfson (born February 4, 1957) is an American attorney and gay rights advocate. He is the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a group favoring same-sex marriage in the United States. Wolfson and his husband Cheng He (born 1975), a change-management consultant with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, reside in New York City. They married on October 15, 2011. (P: David Shankbone. Evan Wolfson,

It was the wit and humor of Dr. He that first attracted Mr. Wolfson, who came across his companion in January 2002 on the site gay.com. In turn, Dr. He, who was then studying for a Ph.D. in molecular biology at New York University, fell for Mr. Wolfson’s sense of humor — so much so that this normally introverted graduate student was inspired to make the first move.

“I e-mailed him first, which is unusual, because I am the shy type,” said Dr. He now a management consultant at Philosophy IB, a consultancy in Florham Park, N.J., where he assists pharmaceutical and consumer-product clients. The two men met in person at Mr. Wolfson’s West Village apartment, whereupon they began exploring their mutual love of going out to see Broadway shows and staying in to watch “Seinfeld” reruns.

In 2008 Dr. He purchased a car to commute to Philosophy IB’s offices. The consultant came home one June day to find a wrapped present. Inside was a GPS system and a note from Mr. Wolfson. It read, “Dear Cheng ... As we travel life’s journey, I’d be lost without you. Let’s travel together. Will you marry me? Love, Evan.”

@Tina Fineberg for The New York Times. The Chinese symbol for double happiness was on the cake.
Evan Wolfson is an American attorney and gay rights advocate. He is the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a group favoring same-sex marriage in the United States. Wolfson and his husband Cheng He, a change-management consultant with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, reside in NYC. They married on October 15, 2011. They met in 2002, and in 2008, Wolfson proposed: “Dear Cheng ... As we travel life’s journey, I’d be lost without you. Let’s travel together. Will you marry me? Love, Evan.”

@Tina Fineberg for The New York Times. Cheng He, seated, and Evan Wolfson before the wedding.

“I said, ‘Where’s my diamond ring?’ ” Dr. He recalled with a laugh. “It was still quite a nice feeling to be proposed to.”

At their Oct. 15, 2011, wedding, the two men wore matching black suits and Hawaiian leis as they exchanged vows under a bamboo wedding canopy that stood beneath one of the Queensboro Bridge’s great stone arches that are a unique feature of Guastavino’s décor.

At the celebratory dinner that followed, Rendong He of Victoria, British Columbia, Dr. He’s 72-year-old father, said that his son’s marriage “is not traditional in China, but the world is changing.”

“I love my son, and Evan is good, his family is good, and my son is good. I support my son.”

Mr. Wolfson’s father, Jerry Wolfson, 81, sweetly chimed in, claiming that somehow he just knew that the precocious boy who became a lawyer could even, he said, “go to China and back” for a principle he believed in.

“Little did I know he would bring us such a treasure.”

Wolfson, who many consider to be the father and leader of the same-sex marriage movement Freedom to Marry, 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..." 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 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 same-sex marriage, long before the question gained national prominence. On October 6, 2010, he returned to the Yale Political Union to debate the issue of marriage for same-sex couples against opponent Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.

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).

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.

From 1989 until 2001 Wolfson worked full-time at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay rights advocacy non-profit. 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 same-sex 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 same-sex marriage. Wolfson called the unions a "wonderful step forward," but not enough.

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 gay through their First Amendment rights. The justices questioned Wolfson "aggressively." 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." 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."

On April 30, 2001, Wolfson left Lambda to form Freedom to Marry with a "very generous" grant from the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund. Wolfson described the breadth of his vision for the new organization: "I'm not in this just to change the law. It's about changing society. I want gay kids to grow up believing that they can get married, that they can join the Scouts, that they can choose the life they want to live." Lambda executive director Kevin Cathcart said that over twelve years Wolfson had "personified Lambda's passion and vision for equality." Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said of her experience with Wolfson at Lambda: "What I can now say is that, in the intervening years, what has been made unmistakably clear to me by the lesbians and gay men that we work with and represent, is that the denial of our right to marry exacerbates our marginalization; winning that right is the cornerstone of full justice."

In 2003 Time Magazine described him as symbolic of the gay rights movement. In his book Why Marriage Matters, Wolfson calls marriage "a relationship of emotional and financial interdependence between two people who make a public commitment." In 2004 Time included Wolfson on its list of the "100 most influential people in the world."

Wolfson said of the Washington Supreme Court's 2006 decision ruling same-sex marriage unconstitutional, "It was a splintered court. Four justices joined powerful dissents. A three-justice plurality applying the wrong standard of review—one that was undeservedly, hopelessly, and self-fulfillingly deferential—was joined by two justices in a fiery anti-gay concurrence, making up the margin of defeat."

Some critics such as BeyondMarriage.org assert Wolfson and others' work is too narrowly focused on a limited marriage agenda. Richard Kim, signatory and founding board member of Queers for Economic Justice, disputes Wolfson's assertion that the same-sex movement is not pushing for a traditional, heterosexual model for all gays and lesbians and creating a political schism, and as such, gravely misrepresent the consequences of their own work for the past 20 years." Wolfson replied "I think if Terrence McNally, Steinem and the others were actually shown some of Richard Kim’s articles as opposed to the broad, conciliatory and coalition-building goals found in that statement, they would not endorse his articles nor his views." In a New York Times review of Why Marriage Matters, author William Saletan states what he sees as flaws in Wolfson's reasoning. "[His] abstract theory of equality flattens...distinction....Thus he demands protection of committed gay couples not because they resemble heterosexual couples in all relevant respects but because it's wrong to discriminate against people because of their 'differences'." Wolfson does not favor the civil union or domestic partnership approaches, because semantic differences create "a stigma of exclusion" and deny gay couples "social and other advantages."

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evan_Wolfson & www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/fashion/weddings/evan-wolfson-and-cheng-he-vows.html

Further Readings:

Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry by Evan Wolfson
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 2, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0743264592
ISBN-13: 978-0743264594
Amazon: Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry
Amazon Kindle: Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry

"At its core, the freedom-to-marry movement is about the same thing every civil rights struggle has been about: taking seriously our country's promise to be a nation its citizens can make better, its promise to be a place where people don't have to give up their differences or hide them in order to be treated equally."
Why Marriage Matters offers a compelling, intelligently reasoned discussion of a question at the forefront of our national consciousness. It is the work of one of the most influential attorneys in America, who has dedicated his life to the protection of individuals' rights and our Constitution's commitment to equal justice under the law. Above all, it is a clear, straightforward book that brings into sharp focus the very human significance of the right to marry in America -- not just for some couples, but for all.
Why is the word marriage so important? Will marriage for same-sex couples hurt the "sanctity" of the institution? How can people of different faiths reconcile their beliefs with the idea of marriage for same-sex couples? How will allowing gay couples to marry affect children?
In this quietly powerful volume, the most authoritative and fairly articulated book on the subject, Wolfson demonstrates why the right to marry is important -- indeed necessary -- for all couples and for America's promise of equality.

More LGBT Couples at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance

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Tags: activist: evan wolfson, gay classics, persistent voices

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