About 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court put Marc Solomon out of a job.
He could not be more elated.
Solomon is national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, a group that set its eye on the prize before almost anyone else. It recognized that gay men and lesbian women would not achieve full equality until they gained access to what Solomon calls “the most important institution in our society.”
And so Solomon, who grew up in Kansas City, was on the front lines as the marriage movement wound its tortuous path through state capitols and courtrooms.
He was in Massachusetts to fend off the fierce effort, led by then-Gov. Mitt Romney, to negate the historic 2003 court decision making same-sex marriage legal in the commonwealth.
He was in New York for the long campaign to get the state legislature to grant marriage equality to gay and lesbian citizens.
He was in California in 2008 for the devastating Proposition 8 vote that snatched marriage rights away from same-sex couples five months after a court had granted them the freedom. He watched states like Missouri and Kansas ban gay marriage through constitutional amendments, and he saw other states affirm the right to marry through the ballot box.
“I’ve been helping drive the roller coaster, which is not easy to do when you’re being tested as you’re going,” he said.
He chronicled parts of the ride in “Winning Marriage,” a lively, behind-the-scenes account published after the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
If you’re one of those people, like me, saying, “I can’t believe how fast this happened,” Solomon’s book will explain a lot. Acceptance of marriage equality didn’t sneak up on America; it was the result of careful political strategy and organization.
“Winning Marriage” includes a bit about Solomon’s personal journey. He grew up in the household of liberal, politically active parents, Mel and Linda Solomon. As a teenager, he dismayed them by veering to the right.
“In addition to being an adolescent rebellion against my parents’ political views, I think my shift had to do with my recognition that I was gay and desperately didn’t want to be,” Solomon writes. “If I were a Republican, so my thinking went, that was a sign I was tough, not weak, and straight, not gay.”
He graduated from The Barstow School in Kansas City and from Yale University, and went to work as a policy adviser on Capital Hill for Jack Danforth, then the Republican U.S. senator from Missouri. Though Solomon eventually returned to his liberal political roots, , he remains close to Danforth to this day.
At age 30, Solomon began dating men and telling people he was gay. The ability to participate in a leadership fellowship sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation sharpened his hunger for political activism. He moved to Boston to attend the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and that’s where he connected with the marriage equality movement.
Among the many moments chronicled in Solomon’s book is watching the “Good Morning America” interview with Robin Roberts in which President Barack Obama completed his “evolution” and said, “…it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
As a political strategist, Solomon was thrilled. “On a deeper and more personal level,” he wrote, “I had an abiding feeling of peace, this feeling deep inside of myself that I as a gay man was okay, was a full citizen and a full human being in this country.”
Solomon was in the “war room” of the New York City headquarters of Freedom to Marry when the U.S. Supreme Court decision made same-sex marriage legal throughout the nation.
“It was just pure elation,” he told me. “It felt like this big burden lifted off my shoulders.”
He was relieved for the many same-sex couples who had put themselves on the front lines over the years. And he was joyful, Solomon said, “for the young gay and lesbian people who are going to grow up in America where the most important institution in our society treats them as co-equals.”
In a few weeks, Freedom to Marry will close its doors. Mission accomplished.
Solomon, who isn’t himself married, isn’t sure what’s next for him. He plans to travel a bit. And he’ll have more time to follow the Kansas City Royals. “I’m a die-hard fan,” he said.
At some point, he should write a new epilogue for his book. I, for one, love a happy ending.