Friday
February 23, 2007
SGN.org
Volume 35
Issue 08
 
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Third Annual Equality Day to take place Monday, Feb. 26th
Third Annual Equality Day to take place Monday, Feb. 26th
by Lisa Walls - Special to the SGN

This Monday in Olympia, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people will descend on the Capitol Building to participate in Equality Day, an event designed to bring people--both Gay and straight--together in support of gaining full equality for the LGBT community. This day is organized by both Equal Rights Washington and the Religious Coalition for Equality; many people of faith will be in attendance.

You can still register today for Equality Day at EqualityDay.org, or you can show up without registering.

Rabbi Michael Latz, who has attended Equality Day in the past with his daughter, Noa, said, "As a Rabbi, a father, and a Gay man I believe Equality Day is a collective gathering to keep our movement marching forward toward equal marriage rights. As a Jew, I believe that all people are created in God's image, but the history of my people teaches that it is not enough to be made in God's image. We must often work for equality--for ourselves and for others. We declare our goodness. We are holy, and commit ourselves to achieving our rights through action. Equality Day provides elected officials an opportunity to rise to their highest principles common to our Constitution and the Biblical canon: justice, compassion, family, and human dignity.

"With a floor vote on the Domestic Partnership bill coming up soon, it's vital that constituents speak with legislators," said Joshua Friedes, Advocacy Director for Equal Rights Washington. "When legislators vote on the bill we want them to see faces and remember the stories of families in their district who would benefit from its passage. It's important for legislators to know that people of faith support civil rights, including marriage equality, for LGBT individuals and families."

Dr. Stephen Jones, minister at Seattle First Baptist Church, wants legislators to pass the Domestic Partnership bill this session, but also hopes that these legislator-constituent meetings will help lawmakers understand the DP bill will not provide LGBT families with the rights and dignity they deserve. "I view the domestic partnership bill as an emergency protection act," she said. "The DP bill provides a few of the basic protections that marriage affords, but it doesn't come close to approximating the safety net legal marriage creates for couples and their children.

Equality Day starts off with morning advocacy workshops conducted by professional lobbyists. A noontime rally on the steps of the Capitol allows prominent clergy, elected officials and community leaders to call for immediate passage of the domestic partnership bill while we continue the struggle for marriage equality. This year elected officials scheduled to speak at the rally include House Speaker Frank Chopp, Senator Ed Murray, Representatives Joe McDermott and Jamie Pedersen and Martin Luther King, Jr County Executive Ron Sims. Past speakers at the rally include Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Governor Christine Gregoire.

While passage of the DP bill is at the forefront of everybody's mind, ERW's legislative agenda for 2007 includes many other issues, including passage of the Healthy Youth Act, which would ensure that public schools teach medically accurate information about the effectiveness of condoms and other methods of family planning. Estimates suggest that 25% of new HIV infections occur among people aged 22 and younger, so a comprehensive approach is crucial to giving young people the tools they need to prevent HIV infection.

A new Cyber Bullying bill goes hand-in-hand with ERW's efforts to protect LGBT youth. Bullying is no longer a problem just relegated to the schoolyard; harassment has moved into other realms. Young people receive threatening emails on their personal web pages.

ERW's 2007 legislative agenda also includes fair implementation of the Real ID Act, which is important to prevent hardship on the Transgender and immigrant communities. ERW's 2007 legislative agenda can be found on their website.

"We're really excited about all the issues we get to address on Equality Day. People who can't attend should know they can easily send an email to their legislators telling them they support the goals of Equality Day. We recognize that Olympia is a long distance to travel. We have a campaighn on our website EqualRightsWashington.org that allows folks to directly contact their legislators in support of Equality Day. Now is also a good time to write letters to the editor; the DP bill could come to the floor any day now," said Nathan Riding ERW's Field Organizer.

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