On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal in Obergefell v. Hodges, but the movement had started much earlier. Director Eddie Rosenstein documented the push for legal same-sex marriage in the months leading up to the ruling in his film, “The Freedom to Marry.” On Wednesday at 7 p.m., Rosenstein will screen the documentary at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
The director and producer said he loves to share stories of everyday people who accomplish great things. He said his optimistic viewpoint has encouraged a love of storytelling through documentary filmmaking.
“Whether it’s a musician or a cabdriver or a miner or a teacher or a kid, we all have the ability to achieve something really extraordinary,” Rosenstein said. “(‘The Freedom to Marry’) happens to be a film set in an LGBT world, but it’s a film about people achieving amazing things against incredible odds.”
“The Freedom to Marry” follows attorney and LGBT-rights advocate Evan Wolfson. The founder and former president of the Freedom to Marry organization, Wolfson dedicated his life to fighting for marriage equality within the legal system.
Rosenstein said that while growing up in Pittsburgh, his family was close friends with the Wolfson family. The director called Wolfson a “civil-rights leader,” and said he hoped to share the “audacious” story of how this group of people was able to go from a despised minority to a legally protected part of America.
“Nobody ever would have thought it possible in the ‘70s for gay people to be treated with any sort of equal rights,” he said. “But through strategy, perseverance and just crazy tenacity, and a lot of people getting involved, they were able to change the ideology of a nation.”
Melissa Starker, the creative content and public relations manager at the Wex, said it was a good time to show the movie given the recent presidential election. With the country’s change in leadership, she said, there may be questions over the future of marriage equality.
“There’s a lot of concern right now that some people thought that this was a closed argument and there are some people that feel, given the current state of things politically, maybe it isn’t,” Starker said. “I think that getting a sense of all that went behind this struggle and this particular battle is a useful thing as we move into perhaps a more uncertain time.”
Rosenstein followed Wolfson and Mary Bonauto, an attorney for the movement, to the 2015 court case that would determine whether same-sex marriage became the law of the land. Although the film focuses on the fight for marriage equality, Rosenstein said that it is also a blueprint on how to achieve any type of social change. He said he made the film to encourage everyone, but especially young people, that social change can actually happen and it is their job to get involved in the process.
“It was just beautiful to have a seat (and) to be there riding along as history was made and to be able to show to the world yeah, this can happen,” he said. “A movement can take millions of people. It’s not just Evan’s story — it isn’t one guy that did this.”
At the Wex screening, Rosenstein will introduce the film and then speak with audience members during a Q-and-A session following. Tickets are $6 for students and $8 for the general public.
“This is one of the predominant civil-rights issues of our time and it’s been a long time coming,” Starker said. “In terms of current events and 20th century American history and just basic human rights, this is a pretty important story.”
Correction Dec. 8: This article was changed to clarify who Rosenstein followed in the documentary.