(Marc Solomon reads from Winning Marriage tonight at Town Hall at 7:30 pm. The reading is $5.)

Marc Solomon's new book Winning Marriage serves a few different purposes at once. First, it's a brief memoir of sorts, documenting Solomon's growth from a teenage gay Republican to a leading Democratic marriage-equality activist. (He writes, "...I think my shift [from Democrat to Republican] had to do with my recognition that I was gay and desperately didn't want to be. I was casting about for anything I could come up with to prove to myself that I wasn't really gay.") Second, it's an autobiography of Solomon's time as national campaign director for Freedom to Marry. Third, it's a history of America's acceptance of gay marriage, culminating in President Obama's full-throated defense of marriage equality. And fourth, it's a dense, useful guidebook demonstrating how to effect national change from a local level. Freedom to Marry took the fight from its early days in Massachusetts over to New York and California, and then onto a national scale, with ballot fights in Washington and Maine. As a political document, it's an essential snapshot of what stands as the biggest civil rights victory of the new century.

This morning, Solomon discussed the usefulness of Winning Marriage as a textbook for people seeking political change. "You certainly can't take the marriage equality campaign and put it on top of guns," he admits, "but there is a lot to learn." He says "one of the nice things about marriage is that you have a clear objective that you want to accomplish," which is essential in politics. With gay marriage, it was important to simultaneously have "a national strategy" but to also figure out "how to put points on the board and build momentum every day" on a local level, to demonstrate progress. With Freedom to Marry, Solomon had to become immersed in state politics very quickly "in a very rigorous sort of way," which meant "figuring out who you could sit down with, who you could trust" on a local level for "real and good information," including "what are the votes that we have, what are the votes we need, what does the organization look like on the ground? Is it strong? Do they have good relationships?"

Real political change, Solomon says, "can't be done in the state house." He says grassroots organizing and field word is "crucial, crucial, crucial." He says "the message is a fundamental piece" of any good political movement. "How do you talk about the cause? How do you talk about it in the context of American values? If you can seize the mantle of freedom, you're doing well." He says it's important to talk about your cause "in a values-laden" context, to convince people that "in order to be their best selves, it's important that they're on your side. That's hard to do, and a lot of message people and pollsters don't get that right." Solomon says that no matter what the polls say, people don't respond to 'a crisis of conscience about their Constitution. Maybe they should, but they don't." What they do care about is "treating other people with respect. I think that can be applied to issues like immigration reform and lack of economic opportunity." Solomon cites Washington's recent vote to improve gun background check laws as an example of a campaign that ran on the same principles as the push for marriage equality.

Solomon wrote Winning Marriage to demonstrate the realities of the political process in all its messiness. "One of the things I think it's really important to show," he says, "is that the work of civil rights is a real slog. It's not a guy or a woman standing up and giving speeches and then everything falls into line." And it's not even just the work of assembling people into a movement. You have to direct those people in useful ways. "It's a hell of a lot more fun to throw a [marriage equality] rally in Seattle than it is getting in a car and going to Spokane and knocking on doors," he says, but only one of those options is going to win you the additional votes you need.

Solomon isn't ready to personally move on to other political issues; he's committed to achieving marriage equality in all fifty states. Even now that gay marriage is largely being dealt with on a judicial level, he warns, there's still a lot of work to be done. Convincing the people of America that gay marriage is a necessity would force the courts into picking up the fight and finishing the job. "What we want to demonstrate, very clearly, is that the country is ready" for marriage equality, he says. "When I first started working on this cause, over ten years ago, so many people told me it's impossible, it'll never happen. Now, people say it's inevitable, it's gonna happen. What those two things have in common," he says, "is that they allow people to relax and not work." A third of the country still can't marry whomever they choose, he says. "Let's just finish this. I want to drive hard until it's done. Then it will really have been inevitable, once it's done."