Guns, Marriage, and the Constitution

Two of the most successful campaigns in recent times to change American constitutional law are the efforts to achieve recognition of an equal right to marry for same-sex couples, and to protect the individual right to bear arms. In both instances, civil society groups committed to a particular constitutional vision worked strategically and tirelessly to make their vision a reality.

This conversation with the former president of the National Rifle Association, David Keene, and the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson, explores the challenges each institution faced and the strategies they deployed to protect the right to which they are committed. 

The discussion is moderated by David Cole, Open Society Fellow and Georgetown Law professor, who is writing a book on the role of civil society groups in enforcing and changing constitutional law.


  • David Keene was president of the National Rifle Association from 2011-13, and continues to serve on its board and executive council. He is opinion editor at the Washington Times, and from 1982-2011 was chairman of the American Conservative Union.
  • Evan Wolfson is founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage equality nationwide. During the 1990s he served as co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case that launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry. Newsweek/The Daily Beast dubbed him “the godfather of gay marriage.”
  • David Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and serves as the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation. As an Open Society Fellow, he is writing a book that explores the effectiveness of civil society organizations in making human rights meaningful.
Date: January 23, 2014
Time: 12:002:00 p.m.
David Cole, David Keene, Andrea Batista Schlesinger, and Evan Wolfson