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LA Bids Farewell to Marc Solomon Who Joins Freedom to Marry – Photos

LA Bids Farewell to Marc Solomon Who Joins Freedom to Marry – Photos

by Karen Ocamb on April 7, 2011

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, Freedom to Marry National Campaign Director Marc Solomon, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The night was cool and clear, the vista of the city of Los Angeles was dazzling from the Hollywood Hills home of Adam Press – a point LA City Council President Eric Garcetti noted repeatedly as he teased and saluted his close friend Marc Solomon at a stellar gathering Wednesday night, April 6, to bid Solomon farewell. The former director of the Marriage Project at Equality California and the former executive director of MassEquality where he lead the fight to defend marriage equality in Massachusetts, has joined Freedom to Marry as the national group’s new National Campaign Director. Garcetti met Solomon in 1999 when they were named by the Rockefeller Foundation as two of 24 Next Generation of Leaders and spent a year working together as part of the fellowship. Garcetti told how Solomon flew to California to do “whatever it took” to help Garcetti win his city council election. In turn, Solomon spent much of the evening urging party-goers to support Garcetti’s all-but-announced run for LA City mayor.

LA City Council President Eric Garcetti, Lance Black, Evan Wolfson (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black was equally effusive, distinguishing Solomon from other national leaders with huge egos. “We’d talk about boys” and not about writing checks, Black said, when he’d run into Solomon at the Coffee Bean while Black was writing. “I’d never get any work done.” Black, who is on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is sponsoring the Perry v Brown federal case against Prop 8, lauded Solomon’s charisma and intelligence, telling Solomon that “Freedom to Marry will excel under your new leadership.”

Eric Garcetti and Marc Solomon

Garcetti, who served as emcee for the program, told how Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson has “dedicated his life to the cause” of marriage equality, which was “a very lonely place for a very long time.” Wolfson, who was called a “prophet” and “visionary” throughout the evening, explained the organization’s “Roadmap to Victory,” which, drawing on social movements from the past, means persuading either Congress or the US Supreme Court to end marriage discrimination. That requires building a critical mass of states. The way to achieve critical mass is to 1) win marriage in more states; 2) grow and solidify a majority of support, which in turn leads to action and emboldening elected officials; 3) end federal marriage discrimination by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is why Freedom to Marry has increased its presence in Washington DC.

Part of the strategy also relies on having one-on-one conversations and listening to what people actually say, combined with new technology – a practice Solomon used to successfully save marriage equality in Massachusetts when faced with a possible constitutional convention to repeal marriage equality there. In his remarks, Solomon revealed that he came to California two weeks before the 2008 election at the request of his friend Patrick Guerriero, executive director of Gill Action Fund, who had taken over running the No on Prop 8 campaign. Solomon said Guerriero told him, “We need you. Things are tough.” When Prop 8 passed, Solomon said he looked at the Rainbow Flag flying at half mast in the Castro District and knew he had to come to California to help win back marriage rights.

EQCA's Marc Solomon listening to an activist at the hot summer Prop 8 repeal summitt (2010 or 2012) in San Bernardino, CA in 2009 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Solomon named a number of younger activists who “inspired” him – including Mike Ai (co-founder of the post-Prop 8 Equal Roots Coalition and EQCA field organizer) and  Susie Jack (LGBT liaison in LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office) and Luis Lopez (founding member of HONOR PAC and candidate for the California Assembly from the 45th District). Indeed, Solomon’s ability to listen and then process what he heard was a significant reason he won over so many angry activists in the post-Prop 8 environment.

Solomon called Wolfson his “mentor” since he “realized this is the work I wanted to do.” He, too, talked about the “tested” approach of telling personal stories and having those “tough conversations” to show how committed, loving same sex couples want to be part of the American Dream. “We also need to win elected officials,” showing them that vision and leadership supporting equality “play politically” as “not just a moral vote but a smart political strategy.” Solomon saluted philanthropist Tim Gill for his foresight in “advancing LGBT equality” through political strategy. He also acknowledged Geoff Kors, former executive director of Equality California, who helped make the California Legislature “the most progressive equality Legislature” in the country, and Chad Griffin, who founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights and “hired” Ted Olson and David Boises to fight Prop 8 in federal court.

Marc Solomon and Evan Wolfson (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Speaking of Prop 8 – since EQCA recently announced they will hold town halls and released a survey asking Californians to weigh in on whether a repeal of Prop 8 should be placed on the ballot in 2012 – during an economic crisis in the state and with President Obama’s re-election campaign apparently gearing up to raise $1 billion in campaign funds – I asked some folks randomly what they thought. Generally, the first response was “Yes” – followed by a beat and a qualification – if multiple polls and the ability to raise the required amount of money  is in place.

Lance Black said Chad Griffin was AFER’s strategy man but offered that he hoped there would be no need to go back to the polls. He noted that the California Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the question of standing in the Perry case (on Monday, April 4, AFER filed a brief with the California Supreme Court on the question on standing for Prop 8 proponents) in September and has up to 90 days after that to issue its opinion. Black noted that the 9th Circuit, which has already heard arguments, has expedited the case “so I expect them to make a decision quickly.”

Marc Solomon said the question of returning to the ballot is “super complicated” and, given his new national position, prefers to “let folks on the ground figure it out.” In 2009, Solomon wrote a memo about “next steps” post-Prop 8 and later wrote a well-researched report on why the LGBT community should not return to the ballot in 2010 but consider 2012 instead.

Tim Gill, Scott MIller, Evan Wolfson and Kevin Minter, gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger's right hand man (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Tim Gill and his husband of two years, Scott Miller, said that while “all options are open,” returning to the ballot with another initiative requires that people “look at what the polls say [regarding support for marriage equality and repealing Prop 8] and the ability to raise the funds.” Gill said it would be “really silly” to begin the process without those considerations.

Jenny Pizer, Evan Wolfson, Doreena Wong, Ron Buckmire (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Ron Buckmire of the Jordan/Rustin Coalition, referred to the Prepare to Prevail report that Jordan/Rustin and other people of color organizations released saying teh community should go back only after multiple polls showed over 55% support, there was at least one million dollars in the bank, and that a “credible plan” and structure for the entity that would run the campaign had to be in place first before he could endorse going forward. Additionally, he noted, such requirements would have to be in place by this October.

Jenny Pizer, who just left Lambda Legal to become Legal Director at the Williams Institute, said, “I don’t see how it’s practical,” given the impending developments in the Perry case. Pizer also noted that “it would be impossible to raise the money that would be required.” LGBT ally Karin Wang from the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (and an KCET “Local Hero”) simply said, “Ditto.” Attorney Doreena Wong, Pizer’s wife, just joined the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Former EQCA board president Cary Davidson, Liberty Hill's Vincent Jones, Here Media's Stephen Macias (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Stephen Macias, senior executive with Here Media, said “the money is there, should the decision be made to return to the ballot.” A self-described “optimist,” he said that “telling our stories is a key part” of any strategy, whether the ballot, the legislature or the courts. But he also noted that his mother asked him why there is no outreach in Spanish. “People think you have the same as we do,” Macias said his mother told him.

Paul Colichman, co-founder of Here Media, said he could honestly and “forcefully” argue bot sides. “There are good reasons for either position,” he said.

Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson, however, stressed that whatever the ultimate decision, the community should still use the time to “bring more people to the polls” and “create a climate” for victory. “Let’s not spend a whole year debating – but instead do the groundwork and create benchmarks of progress in public support and organizing that enables us to decide whether to go or not,” Wolfson said.

More photos from the farewell party:

Marc Solomon and Adam Press (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

NGLTF's Thalia Zepatos, Asian Pacific American Legal Center's Karin Wang, The Williams Institute's Jenny Pizer (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Javier Angulo and Luis Lopez conversing (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Ari Gutierrez of HONOR PAC and Latino Equality Alliance (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Here Media President Paul Colichman and his husband, actor David Milbern (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Equal Roots Coalition co-founder, EQCA field organizer and Marc Solomon "inspiration" Mike Ai (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Openly gay Republican Presidential hopeful Fred Karger (r) and his 1st cousin David Karger, an entertainment writer (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Tim Gill and Scott Miller chatting with Evan Wolfson (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Longtime thinker-activist Curt Shepard, with the LA Gay & Lesbian Center (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs (center) talking with Solomon "inspiration" Susie Jack from Mayor Villaraigosa's office and an unidentifed man (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Former EQCA executive director Geoff Kors (center) with LOVE HONOR CHERISH's John Henning (l) and Tom Watson (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Regina Clemente, formerly with the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, now Field Director for Freedom to Marry (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Longtime Democratic politico Bob Burke (Photo Karen Ocamb)

Matt Szabo, deputy chief of staff for LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

With LA lights as a backdrop, Evan Wolfson makes the case for Freedom to Marry (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

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Prop 8 Trial Tracker » Equality California Town Hall in WeHo Split on Repealing Prop 8
May 25, 2011 at 3:02 PM

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay April 7, 2011 at 8:11 PM

Great article and some wonderful pictures. But the caption of the first picture has a mistake. Marc Solomon is listed twice and Evan Wolfson’s name is omitted.


Karenocamb April 7, 2011 at 9:00 PM

Thanks so much for point out the mistake, Jay. It’s corrected.


Patrick Connors April 7, 2011 at 8:14 PM

You know…there’s just something annoying about the gaggle of gays atop Mount Olympus looking down at all the people that donate money to pay their salaries.

I’m glad they threw him a going away party. That’s very nice. Didn’t he leave the job six months ago? What was his job anyway? How much did he make?

Good luck on your new gig, Mr. Solomon!


MPetrelis April 8, 2011 at 1:37 AM

karen, thanks for yet another peek into the fabulous world of the a-gays! it’s so inspiring to know all these folks schmooze together, on behalf of us ordinary gays. it is not enough, i guess, for the same folks to attend each others’ galas and empty award ceremony, and tell each other just how wonderful they are. no, they find another excuse to avoid meeting with grassroots gays and hearing how displeased we are with them. so one a-gay is moving from one gay inc org to another gay inc org, and we’re supposed to find this somehow merits meaning for the rest of us? i pray to the goddess again for some accountability from the a-gays in your photos. would be great to also find a serious journalist or two to take a skeptical look at these folks and their orgs. -michael


Jon Call April 22, 2012 at 1:09 AM

I know I am late to the party here..but met Marc Solomon tonight. He is an impressive man and is doing good work for the community. It’s frustrating to hear the divisive comments. Each of our individual contributions helps move all of us forward. I think the criticism is a cheap shot, and unwarranted. Especially, considering that Marc Solomon is actively on the front lines fighting for the rights that will benefit us all.


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