If you’re looking for a good cleansing cry after the interminable dark ugliness that has been the recent presidential campaign, consider The Freedom to Marry. Eddie Rosenstein’s new documentary charts the decades-long fight to win marriage rights for gay couples, culminating in the recent landmark Supreme Court decision — spoiler alert! — that guaranteed same-sex marriage. June 26, 2015 was an emotional day for everybody who fought for and cared about this issue, even the keep-it-steady lawyers who help craft and deliver the winning argument.
Two of them feature prominently here: Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, and Mary Bonauto, an attorney with GLAD. Wolfson starts his organization in 2001, and he recounts the very long fight — through early victories like the right to marry in Hawaii and the setbacks of Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8. Bonauto is one of the attorneys who ultimately argues the case before the Supreme Court, and scenes of her methodically and calmly preparing her case remain nerve-wracking even if we know the outcome. Freedom also includes stories of gay couples whose fates depend on this decision, as if the pressure on Bonauto weren’t crushing enough.
The hard work of the lawyers matters, but history shows that marriage equality has also been a battle won from the ground up, by changing individual minds over the years until a majority of Americans support the issue. President Obama, himself a public convert on the matter, summed it up after the Supreme Court decision: “That slow steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt … a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.” Get your hankies out.
The film kicks off the 35th annual Three Rivers Film Festival. This year’s festival is a partnership between Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Film Pittsburgh, and runs from Wed., Nov. 16, through Sun., Nov. 20. The schedule offers two dozen narrative and documentary features, as well as shorts program and a Steeltown event. See www.filmpittsburgh.org for complete schedule and ticket information.