Talks@Change: LGBT History Month and the Fight for Marriage Equality

Nov 5, 2015

Behind every major social movement, there is an army of fighters working to build momentum, gain supporters, and create lasting change.

This was the case for Michael Crawford and Roberta Kaplan, two important figures in LGBT history who stood behind the fight for marriage equality and same-sex couples’ “freedom to marry” in the United States.

Crawford, who is the director of digital and creative strategy for LGBT advocacy organization Freedom To Marry, visited Change.org’s headquarters in San Francisco to talk about his organization’s innovative use of digital media to mobilize the public in support of same-sex marriage, which led to the Supreme Court recognizing marriage equality in all 50 states.

Kaplan, a renowned attorney and author of the new book “Then Comes Marriage,” sat down with Change.org at our New York office to share her experiences in arguing one of the biggest civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in the past 50 years – United States v. Windsor – and ultimately helping defeat the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

The two shared anecdotes of their unique experiences leading the fight for LGBT rights – Crawford, as a digital strategist working to drum up public support for marriage equality, and Kaplan, as a litigator fighting to set legal precedence for same-sex rights across the United States.

At his talk in San Francisco, Crawford emphasized the importance of personal and authentic storytelling in growing support for the freedom to marry as a ballot issue nationwide. Narratives of love, commitment, and family among gay couples shared digitally were instrumental in shedding light on LGBT issues in the eyes of “persuadable straight voters,” Crawford said. Eventually, his work at Freedom to Marry resulted in the Supreme Court ruling discrimination against same-sex marriages as unconstitutional.

Speaking to an audience in New York, Kaplan discussed the legal road traveled to help defeat the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – first in lower-level federal courts and then ultimately at the U.S. Supreme Court. She gave a thorough overview of Edie Windsor – the plaintiff behind the overturn of DOMA – and how Windsor’s marriage to her late partner Thea Spyer became a legend that would change civil rights history. Kaplan also talked about what it was like to walk into the U.S Supreme Court chambers and argue a case that will go down in history books.

Each day, people visit Change.org to talk about and show support for issues related to LGBT rights and equality. Here’s a quick look at the volume of conversations taking place on Change.org about LGBT rights:

  • Over 20 million people have come to Change.org unite over petitions about LGBT rights
  • More than 16,000 petitions have been started about LGBT issues
  • Over 130 petitions alone were started to overturn the Supreme Court decision that outlawed same-sex marriage.


Want to push LGBT rights forward? Visit our Gay RIghts page to view petitions that might interest you.