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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 18, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 25
Seattle's Charlene Strong to meet President Obama
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Seattle's Charlene Strong to meet President Obama

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

According to a June 15 press release, Seattle LGBT activist Charlene Strong will meet with President Obama on June 22 to focus on LGBT marriage equality and the impact of discrimination on real families.

Charlene lost her wife, Kate Fleming, when floodwaters invaded their Seattle home in 2006. Initially prevented from seeing Kate on her deathbed and unable to make even the most rudimentary of arrangements on Kate's behalf, Charlene fought back by becoming a tireless advocate for marriage equality and equal protections for LGBT families.

Through her actions, Charlene has become a catalyst for change.

"Our lives are valuable and deserve a voice and full inclusion in the discussion of full equality," said Strong. "My goal is to be that voice - a voice that reaches out to say that this is the real story, the real pain, and the real collateral damage of discrimination."

Strong says she will take her message of inclusion to President Obama when she meets with him at the White House.

"Kate's mom will be with me - she led a life of volunteering and supporting candidates that pushed for equality - and it will be a pleasure to have her there at that moment to first thank the president for the recent memorandum [providing limited benefits to LGBT partners of federal employees], but also to let him know that I am here if he needs any assistance," Strong said. "I am happy to help.

Strong says she hopes to draw attention to the vulnerability of LGBT families without legal protections.

Charlene's testimony was instrumental in the passage of Washington state's historic domestic partnership legislation, and her subsequent campaigning for the affirmation of those rights with Referendum 71 was the first time LGBT partnership rights were upheld by popular vote in the U.S.

Charlene was appointed to the Washington state Human Rights Commission and is a nationally recognized speaker and advocate for LGBT civil rights. She serves as the spokesperson for Equal Rights Washington's Education Fund. She is also co-producer of the award-winning documentary film, For My Wife &.

"There is real damage because of discrimination, and it will continue without full equality," she said. "Anyone today who is told they cannot be by their loved one's side as they die would explode in outrage."

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