WATCH: Will $1 Million Win Marriage in the South?

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com February 24 2014 8:06 PM ET

Thirteen LGBT organizations announced a new $1 million campaign aimed at changing hearts and minds and winning the freedom to marry in the southern states of the U.S. 

Led by Freedom to Marry, the new campaign, titled Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, includes a bipartisan group of state and federal lawmakers from eight states, along with support from the Equality Federation, the Campaign for Southern Equality, Georgia Equality, Equality Alabama, Equality Florida, Equality Louisiana, Equality Texas, Equality Virginia, Equality North Carolina, South Carolina Equality, the Equality Network of Oklahoma, and the Fairness Campaign of Kentucky.

The campaign, formally announced at a press conference in Columbia, S.C., today, launched with a touching video from U.S. representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon. 

“I see the right to marriage as a civil rights issue," says Lewis, who organized sit-ins and Freedom Rides in the 1960s as a founding member and three-year chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and was a key organizer of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., that was violently interrupted by Alabama state troopers on "Bloody Sunday" in 1965. "You cannot have rights for one segment of the population and one group of people and not for everybody. Civil rights and equal rights must be for all of God's children."

The timing of the launch of the new campaign is particularly strategic, noted Freedom to Marry in a press release announcing the new efforts today. 

"Our investment in the South comes at a pivotal time in the marriage movement,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. "The South is home to hundreds of thousands of loving, committed same-sex couples — and to a majority of the nearly 50 federal marriage cases now underway in courts across the country. Our new campaign will give voice to the many in the region now ready to move forward, including clergy, business leaders, conservatives, and family members, to show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry."

Watch Freedom to Marry's video featuring Lewis below, and get more information about Southerners for the Freedom to Marry here.