'The Freedom to Marry': Film Review

A straightforward encomium for a leading champion of gay rights.
3/10/2017

Eddie Rosenstein profiles Evan Wolfson, a long-suffering hero in the gay-marriage campaign.

Evan Wolfson, "the Paul Revere of gay marriage," makes a sympathetic hero in The Freedom to Marry, Eddie Rosenstein's modest account of the anything-but-modest campaign for that most impressive of gay rights. The right to marry was one many of Wolfson's contemporaries seemingly could not have imagined. And though this film arrives at a time when same-sex marriage is not just imaginable but nearly ho-hum — a fight won an eternity ago, as viewed through the perspective-distortion-field created by the current U.S. regime — this contribution to the history of the fight will be welcomed by those most affected by it.

After establishing his unnecessary countdown clock — 102 days until the Supreme Court arguments whose outcome we all know — Rosenstein begins with some history of the gay rights movement and of Wolfson in particular: This ordinary Pittsburgh kid, growing up in an age of gay stigma, went to Harvard Law and (way back in '83) penned a thesis titled "Samesex Marriage and Morality: The Human Rights Vision of the Constitution."

Cutting back and forth to 2015 attempts to win the straight public's sympathies, the film introduces characters it sees as secondary to Wolfson's decades-long crusade. Most intriguing is Mary Bonauto, the GLAD lawyer who was one of those making arguments to the court in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that guaranteed same-sex couples the right to wed.

Though cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom, Rosenstein gets a whiff of the drama there by watching as Bonauto reviews her own performance after the fact, pausing after each exchange to dispassionately critique the way she made her case. She and the film will have to wait through many "potential decision days," on which the Court might deliver its verdict but chooses not to. Viewers get a few moments of gratification once our heroes learn what we already know. But then it's back to reality, and to the many present-tense battles facing civil-rights-minded Americans — and to future ones, whose scope we can only begin to imagine.

 

Production company: Eyepop Productions

Distributor: Argot Pictures

Director: Eddie Rosenstein

Producers: Eddie Rosenstein, Jenni Olson, Amie Segal, Todd Robinson, Sidney Sherman, Sean Eldridge, Chris Hughes, Ted Snowdon, Duffy Violante

Executive producers: Randi Blanco

Directors of photography: Bob Richman, Claudia Raschke

Editor: Pilar Rico

Composers: Randy Miller, Keith Kenniff

 

86 minutes

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