Evan Wolfson to Receive Barnard Medal Of Distinction Alongside President Obama

May 14, 2012, 08:00 ET from Freedom to Marry

President Obama and Freedom to Marry Founder to Share the Stage and Honors at Commencement Ceremony Today

NEW YORK, May 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, President Barack Obama will deliver the Commencement Address at Barnard College's graduation ceremony and receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the school's highest honor, also being presented to Freedom to Marry's Founder and President Evan Wolfson.  The shared honors come just days after the President spoke out in support of the freedom to marry for all Americans.

"I am deeply moved to join with President Obama to celebrate the next generation of leaders coming up among Barnard women, and to share the Barnard Medal of Distinction with him," said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry.  "And I will thank the President for doing what we elect presidents to do -- showing moral leadership in standing up for freedom, fairness, and families -- and for speaking in such personal terms about the journey he and so many Americans have made to understand who gay families are and why marriage matters."  

"In explaining his change of heart, the President spoke in heartfelt words that rang true, because he described the very same journey that so many Americans – a majority now – have made," added Wolfson.  "He talked about the conversations he has had with his wife, his daughters, gay and lesbian friends and staffers, and others.  He talked about the soul-searching he did as a Christian, as a parent, and as an American.  He described how he and Michelle talked with Sasha and Malia about classmates with gay parents, and how the girls couldn't imagine that their friends' parents would be denied something as important as marriage.  He reflected, he said, on the values he and Michelle are teaching their kids – including the Golden Rule of treating others as you'd want to be treated – and came to see that all that added up to the need to embrace the freedom to marry as a matter of fairness and good."

The Barnard Commencement and Honors ceremony will take place today at 12:30 p.m. on Columbia University's South Lawn, where the President will address approximately 600 members of the Class of 2012 in a speech to be broadcast live on www.barnard.edu.  Others being honored include Helene D. Gayle, the President and CEO of CARE USA, and Barnard professor of chemistry Sally Chapman.

Previous recipients of the Barnard Medal of Distinction include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Arthur Ashe, Walter Cronkite, Mario, Cuomo, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and legendary actress Meryl Streep – and also former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye, who will present the Medal of Distinction to Wolfson.

Wolfson, dubbed the "Godfather of Gay Marriage" by Newsweek, is the Founder and President of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry.  After getting a BA in History from Yale, Wolfson served in the Peace Corps in West Africa and then earned his JD from Harvard Law School.  In 2004, Time magazine named Wolfson one of the "100 most influential people in the world."

Prior to founding Freedom to Marry in 2003, Wolfson launched the ongoing global marriage movement as co-counsel in the landmark Hawaii marriage case, Baehr v. Miike.  He also contributed to the legal teams in the Vermont case that led to the creation of "civil unions" and Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which led to marriage in Massachusetts.  In 1976, he was a Senate intern for Vice President Joe Biden, who this past Sunday came out in support of the freedom to marry.  Wolfson argued before the Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale and has taught as an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School.  Wolfson married his longtime partner, Dr. Cheng He, this past October after winning the freedom to marry in New York.

Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

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Evan Wolfson

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SOURCE Freedom to Marry