DOMA and Our Dad, Paul Wellstone
Change happens. Sometimes it happens in the blink of an eye, but often it takes decades of organizing, fighting, and struggling for what’s right.
Yesterday, at the United States Supreme Court, we saw what can come from that struggle. But we know it took decades of hard work to get there.
On a brisk fall day in 1996, 85 United State Senators, including our dad, Paul Wellstone, voted to pass the Defense of Marriage Act that limited the definition of marriage. Our dad spent a career in the Senate making one principled and courageous vote after another. This was an exception. Dad spent a lot of time reflecting, soul-searching, and apologizing about that vote.
In 2001 he wrote this, “What troubles me is that I may not have cast the right vote on DOMA. When Sheila and I attended a Minnesota memorial service for Matthew Shepard, I thought to myself, ‘Have I taken a position that contributed to a climate of hatred?'”
By 2002, groups like the Human Rights Campaign gave him a 100% rating for his votes in the Senate. In our dad’s journey, we see hope for a sustained movement: changing hearts, shaping policy, and effecting change, one person, one community, and one decision at a time.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act is a historic step forward. But it only happened because over many years, organizers across the country worked to build a movement. At Wellstone Action, we’re proud to be a part of that movement, equipping leaders with a training foundation to effectively champion causes, elect progressives, and mobilize to action.
That’s the Wellstone Triangle: sustained change happens only when grassroots organizing, electoral politics, and public policy are combined to build a movement.
There’s still more work to do. The majority of Americans live in states where marriage is not available to everyone. But progress is afoot.
Dad would be so proud.
Dave and Mark Wellstone
Want to help continue the honest and deep work that was the hallmark of Paul Wellstone’s career? Click to sign up for our August 9-11 Training coming to Lombard.