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After gay marriage was legalized, the best thing happened: I lost my job.

The president of Freedom to Marry talks winning marriage equality and what's next for the marriage movement.

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Modern Love

In 2011, after we won the freedom to marry in New York, I was finally able to marry my fiancé of 10 years in the city we called home.

At that time, I was president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage equality nationwide, and I had already been making the case for ending the exclusion of same-sex couples for nearly 30 years.


Me and my husband at our wedding in 2011. All photos used with permission.

In coverage of our wedding, I quoted the old Sy Sperling TV ad: “I'm not just the Hair Club president; I'm also a client.”

On June 26, 2015, we made it possible for all Americans to share in the same freedom to marry that my husband and I celebrated.

When the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples a year ago, it reflected an epic transformation first in the hearts and minds of the American people, and then the law.

Winning in the Supreme Court was the culmination of more than four decades of work. It was a milestone globally — for all Americans, for the LGBT movement, and also for me, personally.

The victory brought affirmation, security, dignity, and happiness to millions: same-sex couples, our children, our parents, our friends and families. It was a vindication of America’s promise, a resonant example heard round the world of the United States living up to its human rights ideals. And the victory marked a resounding triumph for our strategy and campaign.

More than a million gay people are now legally married in the United States. That’s a hell of a lot of happiness and love.

For me, this triumph also meant that after 32 years of pushing, preaching, and pursuing a vision and strategy to win the freedom to marry, I was going to get a second act.

But before figuring out what that would be — What else do I want to do? What else can I do? — I plunged into fulfilling a promise we had made as we built Freedom to Marry: get the job done and then smartly, strategically, collaboratively close down.

From the get-go, we made it clear that while the work of this Freedom to Marry campaign was done, the work of the LGBT movement, and so many causes, is far from over.

Because we knew even a year ago that it would be crucial to build on the marriage victory, and to sustain and harness the marriage conversation that is the gift that keeps on giving, we didn’t just summarily close down. Freedom to Marry’s board and staff got to work, carefully archiving and sharing our resources, including the launch of a new “legacy and lessons” website that lives on at freedomtomarry.org.

Our staff on June 26, 2015.

We distributed the bulk of our remaining assets to key partner organizations, while dedicating a portion to launch a new Freedom to Marry Global Fund that is now beginning to advance the cause around the world. We helped place our A-team staff in other good-guy jobs, including with campaigns such as Freedom for All Americans, modeled on the Freedom to Marry playbook to secure nondiscrimination protections.

Then, we joyfully, nostalgically, proudly, gratefully shut our doors.

Freedom to Marry’s last official day was Feb. 29, 2016. On that Leap Day, I took a leap into a new chapter of my life, too.

Since my law school thesis back in 1983, I’d focused on why we should have the freedom to marry and why we should fight for it. Now we had won, and I was suddenly faced with the question (helpfully posed and re-posed to me by seemingly hundreds of friends and strangers): “What’s next?”


Me after the Supreme Court victory, at our offices.

One of the happy consequences of success is that many people want to learn how you did it.

I decided that for a time, at least, rather than jumping to take charge of a new thing, I wanted to respond to the many requests for advice and assistance I was getting from diverse movements, causes, and countries eager to share the lessons to be learned from our campaign.

In my new life chapter, I was determined, I wanted to learn and contribute even more widely — not just marriage, not just LGBT, and not just the U.S.

Now, I teach law and social change at Georgetown Law, and have an affiliation with Dentons, the world's largest law firm. I am called on to advise organizations on a wide range of issues: gun control, women's rights, reproductive rights, campaign finance, voting rights, environment, education reform, labor, animal rights, death penalty, and philanthropy. I also still assist with ongoing LGBT priorities, too (such as securing nondiscrimination protections, combatting religious exemptions, and assuring good lives, as well as good laws).

As someone who’s spent most of his career suing the government, it’s been a thrilling turnaround to be invited to work with several U.S. embassies in the last year as well.

I've met with local advocates and made the case for the freedom to marry in countries as diverse as Austria, Japan, and, most recently, Cuba.

We must pursue explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

At every level — federal, state, and local, and in businesses, and through legislatures, agencies, and the courts — a next priority, I said, for our movement is to pursue explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in important arenas such as employment, housing, education, and public accommodations such as restaurants, businesses, and, yes, bathrooms.

Advances and voices against discrimination and exclusion, through the law and through cultural embrace, help reduce the kinds of hate, fear, and exploitation we still see too often — whether in recent battles over anti-civil-rights legislation in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Indiana, or in the apparent pathology that a killer, armed with weapons of carnage, carried into a gay dance club in Orlando, ending 49 beautiful lives and shattering many others.

The Orlando shooting was a reminder of how much toxicity, how much vulnerability, and how much violence gay and transgender people still face in the U.S., and in cultures and countries around the world.

But listening to the friends and family members of the victims speaking so articulately and passionately at vigils and on TV, and seeing the solidarity among LGBTQ, Latino/a, and Muslim leaders, among so many others, is also a heartening reminders of how far we have come and what we can do together.

There is so much seemingly on the wrong track here in the U.S. and globally, and there is so much more to do.

Though I am no longer the Hair Club president, I am still moved by the people who every day share their journeys and stories of their lives and their weddings with me.

They show me pictures of their families, their children, and their friends, and I am gratified at the ways in which their lives have been lifted and their belief in the power of change restored by America’s living up to its promise.

Me and my husband at our wedding in 2011.

How wonderful to be able to offer proof that people can rise to fairness, that we each can make a difference, and that together we can make a better world.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


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