Equality Virginia, Freedom to Marry Launch $1 Million Marriage Campaign in South

For Immediate Release, February 24, 2014 Contact: Angela Dallara, Media Relations Manager, Freedom to Marry, [email protected]; 646-430-3925 Kirsten Bokenkamp, Communications Director, Equality Virginia, [email protected]; 804-643-4816 Richmond -  Equality Virginia, Freedom to Marry, and 12 other Southern statewide and regional organizations today launched a $1 million multi-state campaign to build majority support for marriage in the South. The new effort, called Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, will include significant field and media work over the next year in partnership with supportive organizations across the region. Bipartisan co-chairs across the region include civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who kicked off the campaign in a web ad; U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA); and George W. Bush advisor Mark McKinnon from Texas. “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.” "Equality Virginia is proud to join Freedom to Marry and numerous other Southern equality organizations to move the conversation forward about marriage," said James Parrish, Executive Director. "We believe in treating others as we would want to be treated.  All loving and committed couples deserve to be treated with respect, but for too long, Virginians - and Americans across the South - have been denied the basic freedom to marry. It's time to change that." Despite growing support in the South, Southern states continue to discriminate against the more than 200,000 couples and their families who make the region their home. According to 2010 Census Bureau data, same-sex couples raising children are more common in the South than in any other region of the country.  A recent poll of registered Southern voters showed that support for the freedom to marry in the region is now evenly split. The Southerners for the Freedom to Marry campaign launched with 13 honorary co-chairs:
  • Alabama: State Representative Patricia Todd (D)
  • Arkansas: TV producers Harry Thomason & Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan (D)
  • Florida: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R)
  • Georgia: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D), Rep. John Lewis (D)
  • Mississippi: Lance Bass, musician and author
  • North Carolina: Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt (D)
  • South Carolina: Rep. James Clyburn (D)
  • Texas: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D); Mark McKinnon, Chief media advisor to President George W. Bush
  • Virginia: U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D)
“Marriage is a fundamental freedom, and all Americans have a right to the same legal benefits and responsibilities that come with it,” said Senator Tim Kaine, who campaigned against a 2006 amendment to the Virginia constitution that banned any legal recognition of same-sex relationships. “I’m pleased to co-chair Southerners for Freedom to Marry as we continue to move closer to our goal of achieving true marriage equality in Virginia and across the country.” Southerners for the Freedom to Marry is led in partnership between Freedom to Marry and the following: 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.