"Like a thunderbolt." That's how President Obama described the swiftness of the justice delivered by the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling. On June 26, the court recognized the constitutional right of same-sex couples to wed, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage in every state. Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, drank champagne with his coworkers to fete the end of a decades-long struggle. Across the U.S., people celebrated. The White House itself shone in rainbow colors. This is a flashbulb moment in the queer imagination -- future generations will ask us, "Where were you when marriage passed?"
Now, as we approach the one-year anniversary of this momentous decision, documentary filmmaker Eddie Rosenstein affords us a peek behind the scenes of the masterminds of this movement in the days leading up to the decision in The Freedom to Marry. Through exclusive interviews with people on both sides of the fight, Rosenstein details the cooperation of Wolfson with the "Thurgood Marshall" of the LGBT community, civil rights lawyer Mary Bonauto. Together, they trudged through litigation, built a case for marriage equality, and prepared for a grueling oral argument, all the while endeavoring to change the hearts and minds of Americans.
This may seem like an impossible task -- the first same-sex couple to file for marriage did so in 1970, almost half a century prior, and even the LGBT community was divided about whether marriage was the right thing to fight for. When Wolfson founded Freedom to Marry in 2003, only 32 percent of Americans approved of same-sex marriage. According to Rosenstein, the key to victory was in helping non-LGBT people understand "that gays and lesbians were simply people." The film shows how this monumental task was achieved through single steps -- something as simple as a conversation between neighbors. Once the movement had garnered the approval of the majority of Americans, then the litigation was easy. Well, not easy. But easier.
Marriage is won, but the fight is far from over, of course. Not only have Republicans such as Donald Trump pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the ruling, but also this year saw a resurgence of anti-LGBT legislation. Laws such as North Carolina's House Bill 2 attempt to codify discrimination against transgender people, and June brought a massacre of queer people. After sending out their thoughts and prayers to the victims of Orlando, House Republicans blocked an important LGBT equality bill. Then their colleagues in the Senate failed to pass gun control measures that would have prevented shooter Omar Mateen from getting an assault weapon. But what Rosenstein's documentary proves best is that justice often comes at a crawling pace. That is, except when it bursts forth like a lightning bolt.
The Freedom to Marry will premiere at the Frameline LGBTQ Film Fest in San Francisco Saturday June 25. Watch an exclusive clip below.