by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) recently elected Jarrett Barrios as president of the nation's LGBT media advocacy and anti-defamation organization.
Barrios, a Cuban American immigrant who first made a name for himself as a lawyer, became both the first openly Gay man and first Latino elected to the Massachusetts State Senate. While serving in the Senate, Barrios successfully advocated to keep marriage equality in Massachusetts, the first state in the U.S. to legalize Gay marriage.
Still, Barrios maintains, he felt he could do more with his life. "After nine years in the legislature I started to feel diminishing returns," Barrios told SGN. "I left politics to run a large non-profit organization, and although I was happy in my job of philanthropy, I began reflecting on my ability to have a real impact."
Barrios, who's married to his partner Doug, with whom he parents two teenage sons together, said being a parent changed him. He said, "You begin to see the world through your children's eyes, and you begin to see the world you want them raised in."
He told SGN he began to realize the danger of living in a bubble. "In Boston, much like Seattle, you might live in a neighborhood where your neighbors accept you. You might have a job where you won't be discriminated against," Barrios said. "But sometimes, those of us who live in the bubble lose touch with the people who are still at risk every day. We need to remind ourselves that life still isn't equal for many people in our LGBT community."
Barrios said that even though he lives in Massachusetts, where state laws protect same-sex marriage, employment and housing rights, his two sons have encountered anti-Gay slurs because they have two dads. The key to battling the social problem, Barrio says, is acceptance and respect.
"We need more than just legal equality, we need fully equality for LGBT Americans," he said. "[The Gay movement] is not just about rights; it's about acceptance, respect, and being valued for the contributions we make. At GLAAD, we work with and through the media to promote non-stereotypical views in order to achieve exactly that."
CHANGING HEARTS AND MINDS
According to Barrios, GLAAD views changing hearts and minds as the organizations mission. Which is why, he says, GLAAD has become involved with the Approve Referendum 71 Campaign to keep Washington State's domestic partnership law.
The law, signed by Governor Christine Gregoire in May, will appear on voter ballots this week as Referendum 71.
"In this case, it's the issue of basic protections," Barrios told SGN. "We need to win public support to approve the referendum. People need to take care of each other."
GLAAD works closely with state equality organization Barrios said, it was "natural for Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST) to reach out to us." He said GLAAD has helped WAFST, the Gay advocacy group leading the campaign to approve Referendum 71, develop messages and train people on how to talk about the issue of domestic partnerships. GLAAD has done trainings for couples, allies, law enforcement officials, people of faith, and senior citizens in Washington State. The organization sent a media field strategist to work with WAFST, Barrios said.
"Adam Bass has been in Washington State since August," he said. "He's there to protect the domestic partnership law by working with the media. He's working to make sure the media is accurately covering the issue. It is important to get the language right - it is important to approve Referendum 71."
According to WAFST officials, GLAAD's participation in the campaign is making an impact.
"GLAAD has been an important partner in WAFSTs media and communications efforts," said Josh Friedes, campaign manager for WAFST. "They have also been instrumental in preparing a broad range of LGBT Washington residents and our allies to share stories with fellow citizens. The passage of this law is truly a community effort, and we are so grateful to GLAAD and to everyone who so tirelessly support that work."
On October 24, following the screening on Training Rules at the Seattle Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, GLAAD will host a panel, which will include Barrios and the CEO of the Seattle Storm. For more information about the Training Rules panel, visit www.glaad.org/seattlescreening.
"We are going to discuss homophobia in sports," Barrios said. "Sports entertainment is an important part of the media, and we need to identify the homophobia that exists within that community so that we may end it."
Additionally, GLAAD will hold a fundraiser on October 25. Photographer Art Wolfe will open his home for a cocktail reception and exclusive showing and auction for some of his limited prints. For more information about the cocktail reception, visit www.glaad.org/seattle09.
Although Barrios said he hopes to see a lot of people at the upcoming Seattle GLAAD events, it's the fight for equality that has his full attention.
"There's nothing more difficult than having your rights voted on. It's as if you, yourself, are being put on the ballot," Barrios told SGN. "No one wants to wake up on November 4 and realize you've lost the vote. Vote, and make sure your friends, families, and coworkers vote. Referendum 71 must be approved!"
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