WeHo’s Matt Baume Anchors Weekly ‘Marriage News Watch’ Videos

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen the California Supreme Court issued its historic 2008 ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry, it ushered in the “summer of love” with the nuptials of 18,000 same-sex couples.

Matt Baume, then a freelance journalist in San Francisco, had a thought that would prove life-changing: “Now that we have this, someone’s going to try to take it away—and isn’t that awful?”

The emergence of Prop 8, the 2008 California ballot proposition and resultant state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, proved him right. Baume was spurred to action. Putting his Emerson College film degree to good use, he launched a series of videos, featuring interviews with couples, with the title “Stop 8.”

Matt Baume
Matt Baume

After Prop 8 passed, Baume decided to continue making weekly videos. He shifted the focus a bit to make them recaps of marriage equality news.

The videos were “very scrappy, just in my apartment,” he said. But they were the forerunner of Baume’s current Marriage News Watch videos, which regularly garner more than 3,000 views on YouTube. (The videos are posted on the Marriage News Watch website and are also syndicated on some other LGBT sites.)

Today, the videos are released under the banner of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the organization behind the lawsuit to overturn Prop 8. After seeing some of his “scrappy” early videos, AFER recruited Baume to do some communications work and to make the videos.

Though they loved San Francisco, Baume and his partner of about 12 years moved to West Hollywood. (Though he’s “Mr. Marriage” and uses the word “husband” for his significant other, Baume hasn’t legally tied the knot.)

After Prop 8 passed, and the path forward wasn’t certain, a lot of LGBT and allied people had questions. Baume’s weekly marriage newscast broke things down into digestible nuggets of information. In addition to watching Prop 8, Baume updated viewers on developments in other states.

Baume’s move toward working on marriage equality wasn’t deliberate, he said, but it felt right.

“The Prop 8 thing kind of took over my life,” he said.

For Baume—and for the fight in California for same-sex marriage—2008 and 2009 were intense. There was the campaign against Proposition 8, followed by the crushing blow of its passage. Then came questions about what was next. At first, the (sometimes contentious) question was whether the issue would go back to the ballot box in 2010 or in 2012.

Then, in May 2009, AFER made a move that some LGBT activists found surprising. The organization filed a lawsuit challenging Prop 8, with Ted Olson and David Boies—attorneys from opposite sides of the 2000 Bush v. Gore presidential election case—joining forces.

Some proponents of marriage equality hailed it as bold; others feared it brash and ill-fated. Though the court case wasn’t universally supported, the idea of placing a pro-marriage equality measure on the 2010 or 2012 ballot faded away.

As AFER’s court case wound its way through the legal system, Baume continued to release videos that explained what was going on. There were also marriage equality advancements in many other state, which Baume updated viewers on as well.

The case against Prop 8 reached a crescendo with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Prop 8 supporters in June 2013. The court’s ruling that the backers of Prop 8 lacked legal standing to defend the measure meant that a lower court ruling, which had deemed the measure unconstitutional, would stand, thereby allowing same-sex marriages in California. At the same time, the court struck down a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, finding the act unconstitutional due to its denial of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

That evening, hundreds gathered in West Hollywood to celebrate. Marriage equality was coming back, and once again, California would be a place for heartwarming proposal stories and legally recognized weddings of same-sex couples (both of which WeHo’s had aplenty).

Amidst the revelry, there was a call to remember that the fight for marriage equality was not yet won. In most states, same-sex couples still can’t legally tie the knot, Human Rights Campaign president and AFER founder Chad Griffin reminded the crowd.

“Tonight, we set a new goal for our brothers and sisters,” he said. “We will bring marriage equality to all 50 states within five years. Justice can’t wait.”

Could same-sex couples have the right to wed in any U.S. state by 2018? With encouraging news from one state after another, a once unthinkable goal is starting to look less like pie in the sky and more like delectable wedding cake.

Baume, who combs blogs and news sites rigorously to stay on top of marriage news, says there’s some kind of action taking place in all of the states that don’t yet have marriage equality. That action is sometimes a lawsuit, sometimes legislation and sometimes a ballot measure—and sometimes more than one of those things is in play at the same time.

“It’s crazy complicated,” he said.

So though Prop 8 is dead and buried, Baume continues to release his weekly Marriage News Watch videos.

“As long as marriage equality’s a thing, I’ll keep doing them,” he said. And as long as AFER wants them, he said, he’ll make them for AFER.

For the foreseeable future, Baume will have plenty to talk about. There are lots of court cases, and at least one of them seems likely to reach the Supreme Court by next summer. (Utah and Oklahoma are the strongest contenders to reach the Supremes by that time, Baume said). And though Baume focuses mostly on the U.S., he’s got an eye on developments in England, Scotland and Wales.

Though he won’t stop video blogging about marriage any time soon, Baume is diversifying his professional work. Previously, his specialties as a freelance journalist were LGBT and environmental issues. He’s written for SFist, Curbed and the Bay Area Reporter—and more recently he’s contributed photos to WEHOville.

Baume, who rarely drives and generally gets around WeHo on his bicycle, is putting more environmental reporting back into the mix. He’s interested in history and science, too. And he has a hand in other things, such as doing some talent scouting. With the specter of Prop 8 in the past, Baume is ready to build a life less consumed by marriage.

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