Coll. 027: Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry Papers Finding Aid


Coll. 027: Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry Papers Finding Aid


Historically in Massachusetts, and in other states, attempts by same-sex couples to apply for and receive marriage licenses were met with refusals by public officials to grant a license to same-sex couples.

As a response to those attempts a lawsuit was filed in Suffolk Superior Court in Massachusetts on April 11, 2001 by lead attorney Mary Bonauto, of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, GLAD.

The case, Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, had 7 plaintiff couples who had applied for and were denied marriage licenses in Massachusetts. The court ruled against the plaintiff couples in May 2002. GLAD attorneys immediately appealed the case directly to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC).

Oral Arguments were heard in the case March 4, 2003, and in November, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff couples, allowing city and town clerks in the Commonwealth to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples as of May 17, 2004.

The organization, Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts ( had been engaged in grassroots education, advocacy and lobbying in support of civil marriage rights for same sex couples since 1993.

The FTMC also played a key role in the founding and growth of the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, RCFM. The RCFM was formed by a group of clergy who met informally at a FTMC function in 1997. One of the co-founders was Rabbi Howard Berman, (see also The History Project, MS. COL. 26, Howard Berman Collection).

The RCFM was a group of more than 700 clergy, congregations, and organizations from 23 faith traditions, including the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association and Reform Judaism, Roman Catholics and others. Not many Roman Catholic Priests signed the declaration of support. On the 1000 signer Declaration of Support there was one Catholic Priest (Apostolic) who signed. There were members of various Roman Catholic parishes who would later sign a statement of support targeted at non-clergy Catholic supporters of same-sex marriage rights.

From 1997, RCFM spanned approximately 8 years, from the period of time preceeding the Goodridge Case to after the favorable ruling to the constitutional convention in Sept. 2005, where the anti-gay amendment banning same sex marriage was defeated, until the organization officially disbanded in 2007.

Administrative personnel ran the day to day operation of RCFM. These included Executive Director, Rabbi Devon Lerner; Outreach Coordinator, Alex Hivoltze-Jimenez; Assistant Director, Margaret (Maggie) Crowley; Program Manager and Administrator (part-time), Carlos French; and a loaned intern from the Freedom to Marry Coalition, Katie McDonough. The position of Director of Community Outreach was proposed and created in 2005. Before that time, Alex Hivoltze-Jimenez held the position of political director. All positions were paid positions except the internship. Two clergy acted as executive directors of RCFM, the first, and longtime director, was Rabbi Devon Lerner. Later, The Rev. Anne Fowler, who served as president of the board of directors, would serve as acting executive director.

The RCFM was primarily funded by grants and donations from member organizations and individuals. An example of the 2005-2006 budget included $75,000 in grants and $101,000 in donations. Grants included the Gill Foundation, Mass Equality, and the Unitarian based Fund for a Just Society.

Funding allowed the RCFM coordinators to speak to numerous congregations and other gatherings, organize religious support in the form of signers to the Declaration of Support for the Freedom to Marry, and lobby against attempts to pass a constitutional amendment at constitutional conventions banning gay marriage by those opposed to same sex marriage rights, such as Mass Resistance.

The success of the RCFM was evidenced by the funding, innovation, and grassroots support for same sex marriage in Massachusetts. The RCFM remains today a very successful social justice model not only in the realm of LGBT equal rights in Massachusetts but nationally in the general area of civil rights and liberties.


Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry




“Coll. 027: Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry Papers Finding Aid,” Documented | Digital Collections of The History Project, accessed February 27, 2021,