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Washington Legislature gains sixth Gay representative in Marko Liias
Washington Legislature gains sixth Gay representative in Marko Liias
by George Bakan and Nick Ardizzone - SGN Staff Writers

When Marko Liias, a 26-year-old Democrat from Mukilteo, replaced former Rep. Brian Sullivan in early January, he became the sixth openly Gay member of the Washington state Legislature. His appointment elevates Washington's caucus to one of the most Gay-friendly in the nation, second only to New Hampshire with its seven Gay representatives. Seattle Gay News spoke with Liias on Thursday about his policies and priorities.

The appointment to the Legislature comes as the hardworking Liias is finishing getting his master's in Public Administration. "I'm taking a little bit longer than normal because of having been elected to [the Mukilteo] City Council," he explained. "It took a lot of time and energy away from being able to finish that degree."

As well as finishing his schooling, Liias was busy building homes until his legislative responsibilities took their toll. "The duties here are so intense that I'm moving away from that small business ownership." he said. "It is just too difficult to manage the two halves. I'm going to look at getting into public policy full-time, probably at the local level."

Liias' specialty seems to be balancing his personal goals with the public's best interests. While on the Mukilteo council, Liias didn't press a Gay agenda. He felt he didn't need to. "We didn't work on issues related to sexual orientation while I was on the City Council. I would say, in general, the 21st district - including Seattle - is comprised of people that are very tolerant, who understand that Washington is a diverse society & everyone deserves a place in our society and the decisions we make."

When the recent domestic partnership bill was proposed, Liias signed on as a sponsor. "I think it's a common-sense step forward on the domestic partnership bill which was passed last year," he said. "It begins to add not only additional rights, but responsibility as well to domestic partners, and I think it makes sense to build on the accomplishments of last year and include some of the other basic rights that are afforded to other couples in the state of Washington."

While proud of his support of the domestic partnership bill, Liias made sure not to appear overzealous. "I wouldn't even say that civil rights is one of my core priorities," he pointed out, downplaying any involvement in GLBT causes. "It's something I'm proud to be working on while I'm here, but I'm really working on a lot of local issues and trying to deliver some solid results for people in my district."

Liias was eager to talk about his priorities for the district, which emphasize transportation, working on a strong public education system, and affordable housing. "I look forward to making some progress on some bread-and-butter issues that affect families in the 21st district," he said.

Liias did not volunteer any personal stories about being an out Gay representative. In fact, the young legislator seems set on leaving his private life out of the public eye. "I'm primarily here to be a legislator," he stressed. "[Being Gay] is part of my life experience, and I think when it comes to the basic civil rights issues I'm proud to be a voice here for folks that aren't represented, but really I think we're all here fundamentally to work on important issues."

"Certainly the story is out, and we've accomplished a pretty big milestone in being the state that has once again sent the message that we're progressive," he said. "We have good representation right now in the legislature and I'm excited that we're there, but we're really here to do work on everything, and be a voice on all sorts of issues in our society."

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