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Fall Diversity Speaker: Prominent Marriage Equality Advocate at California Western

Evan Wolfson (left) with Vice Dean Barbara Cox

"I always believed we could do it," said Evan Wolfson, an attorney on the front lines of the marriage equality movement. He appeared at California Western on October 29 as part of the law school's diversity speaker series presented by the Student and Diversity Services office.

California Western's Vice Dean Barbara J. Cox, also on the front lines of the movement, moderated an informal give-and-take discussion between the two scholars. Cox devoted more than three decades of her career to achieving a goal that was realized on June 26, 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage is a "fundamental right."

"It's amazing that it happened," said Cox who added that Freedom to Marry—the organization that Wolfson founded and Cox chaired—will be shutting down.

During the discussion, Wolfson outlined the Freedom to Marry strategy leading to the historic Supreme Court decision.

There were victories and setbacks along the way—such as the passage of California's Prop 8, outlawing same-sex marriage, which Cox called "devastating."

"We knew we couldn't always win, but we can 'lose forward,'" Wolfson said. He explained that the losses often accelerated the movement—helping them to charge ahead with renewed energy and strength. After the victories, he said: "We need to hold [on to] the wins." After the setbacks, he said: "Let's do better."

The clear vision that emerged was to "win in the court of public opinion—and create a national majority," Wolfson said. "We won hearts and minds."

However, referring to the Supreme Court decision, Wolfson says, “It's epic, but it's not everything. There is still a lot to do."