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Equal Rights Washington chooses new executive director
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Equal Rights Washington chooses new executive director

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

On March 6 at the W Hotel in downtown Seattle, Equal Rights Washington (ERW), the statewide advocacy organization working to achieve legal and social equality for LGBT individuals and families, announced Josh Friedes as the organization's new executive director at 'The Power of Us,' ERW's fourth annual gala.

Friedes served as the advocacy director of Equal Rights Washington for three years before taking a leave of absence to be the campaign manager for the successful Washington Families Standing Together Approve Referendum 71 campaign. Before coming to Washington state, Friedes served as the senior staffer at the Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts and as the board chair of the MassEquality Education Fund.

Dr. Shilpen Patel, ERW board chairman, expressed his enthusiasm. 'On behalf of the ERW board and selection committee, I'm delighted to welcome Josh Friedes as our next executive director. Through the process of identifying the best candidate, it became clear that Josh's unprecedented success at building winning coalitions to secure and protect equality for LGBT people made him the right choice as we enter the next phase of our work in Washington state.'

On accepting the position, Friedes stated, "The next few years present an enormous opportunity in the struggle for full equality for Washington's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender residents, and Equal Rights Washington is ready to take on that challenge. Full equality means not only ending discrimination in the issuance of marriage licenses, but addressing a host of critical issues, ranging from meeting the needs of older LGBT Washingtonians to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of LGBT youth and Transgender Washingtonians to strengthening the LGBT movement in urban, rural, and suburban areas."

Longtime Transgender rights advocate Marsha Botzer, chair of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and ERW board member, said, "While Friedes is best known nationally for his work on family recognition rights, it is his inclusive vision, his understanding of the diversity of the LGBT community, that makes me so excited that he will serve as ERW's new executive director. Combine Friedes' vision with his commitment to broad-based coalition building and innovative use of technology, and I think you can see why Friedes is the right person for the job."

Friedes holds a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law and degrees in history and political science from the University of Rochester. Friedes' past work experience includes serving as the executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, where he focused on campaign finance reform, and a stint in the Peace Corps as a forester. Friedes served for nearly a decade as the political advisor to the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry.

The rest of "The Power of Us" ERW gala was part politics, part fundraiser, and part entertainment. Guests enjoyed a cocktail reception and silent auction while listening to Gypsy Jazz musicians Hochi Wichi. When the conference room, known as the Great Room, was opened, the audience was wowed as Seattle drag queen and burlesque star Ben DeLaCreme started the night off with an eye-opening performance. Notable speakers Marsha Botzer and Congressman Jay Inslee were on hand to remind the crowd of the important work ERW does for LGBT Washingtonians, and of the work that still needs to be done. After the dinner, singer Stefan Paul George and openly Lesbian comedian Judy Gold entertained the audience. A rousing live auction with Judy Gold and ERW Board of Directors member Mike Wrenn followed.

For more information about ERW, visit the organization online at www.equalrightswashington.org.

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