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40 Under 40: Richard Carlbom Is Spreading Midwest Equality to the Coasts

By Trudy Ring

Richard Carlbom, 33
St. Paul, Minn.

Richard Carlbom helped bring marriage equality to Minnesota, and now he’s trying to do the same for the nation. As campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, he led the effort that persuaded voters to reject an anti–marriage equality state constitutional amendment in 2012, and the following year successfully lobbied the state legislature to enact a law granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Now, as partner and cofounder of the consulting firm United Strategies, he’s working for client Freedom to Marry in the fight for coast-to-coast equality. Fortunately, he does know a bit about winning. Besides the marriage equality victories, his successes include managing the 2010 reelection campaign for Minnesota congressman Tim Walz and, at age 23, becoming the youngest mayor ever elected in the state. He served as mayor of the city of St. Joseph from 2005 to 2007. He says he's learned that being reasonable and gathering allies are the keys to making a winning argument.

“It’s OK for it to be emotional,” he explains, “but not for it to be combative.”

Allies from the marriage equality fight will benefit the LGBT movement in other ways, he adds, as they can help push for antidiscrimination laws and other measures. “With those allies, we can accomplish so much more than the freedom to marry,” says Carlbom.

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