by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Washingtonians are largely progressive. We are a state where pro-LGBT legislation can pass at the ballot box and for openly Gay politicians, running for and being elected to public office is more common than not. Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Seattle is second only to San Francisco in the percentage of residents identifying themselves at LGBT. Washington state, Seattle in particular, is the Gay Mecca of the Pacific Northwest. In order to assess just what all that meant for LGBT Washingtonians in 2010 and what the future holds, I turned to our community leaders for answers.
NEWS FROM OLYMPIA
Washington State Senator Ed Murray (D-43), a longtime champion of pro-LGBT rights in Washington and an openly Gay legislator, said, 'I look back on 2010 as a year of hope and progress for our local LGBT community.'
One reason to celebrate, said Murray, is that Laurie Jinkins was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives, becoming the first open Lesbian to serve in the Legislature.
'ERW joined with the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee to support state senators who voted with us on domestic partnership legislation,' he said. 'In an election when Republicans gained control of 21 chambers in state legislatures nationally, ERW helped make the critical difference in Democrats bucking this national trend to maintain a majority in our state legislature.'
In 2010, 1,541 couples registered in Washington state, bringing the total number of registered domestic partnerships to 8,330. 'This year's growth of the domestic partner registry represents another important step on the road to full marriage equality.'
Openly Gay State Representative Jamie Pedersen, serving the 43rd District (which includes Seattle) said, 'Although we have a long way to go to reach equality, LGBT people made significant progress in 2010. At the federal level, all three branches of government contributed to those gains. The president signed an executive order on hospital visitation that requires our families to be treated equally at every hospital in the country. The Congress passed and the president signed legislation repealing DADT, which will allow LGBT people to serve openly in the military. Federal district courts also held that DADT and the federal DOMA were unconstitutional. The battle on DOMA will continue for years to come.'
'At the state level, we were largely focused on consolidating our victory on Referendum 71 and defending our allies in the legislature who voted with us. With a great effort from Fighting for the Majority and ERW, we were able to retain pro-equality majorities in both the state House and Senate,' he said.
In 2011, with the Republicans taking control of the U.S. House, our ability to make progress at the federal level will be limited.
'Look for organizations such as Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights to continue their steady progress in the courts, and support them,' said Rep. Pedersen. 'At the state level, we have an ambitious agenda, including parenting rights for LGBT families, recognition of marriages from other states as domestic partnerships, and anti-bullying legislation. We'll also be continuing to prepare for the possibility of moving marriage legislation. ERW is the key organization advocating for us in Olympia - please support its work! I'm optimistic that we are poised to make great progress over the next two years in Washington state.'
'Throughout my work as governor, I've talked with many brave families who have shared their lives, their struggles and their moments of joy. These are hard-working men and women who are in committed relationships - serving our communities, raising children, and helping our businesses succeed. While people have come to know that Lesbian and Gay families are no different than their own, legal barriers remain that prevent the same treatment,' said Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire. 'I'm proud of our work to make immeasurable strides on behalf of LGBT individuals and families. We have thousands of couples registered as domestic partners in our state - in every county, and in every legislative district. This past year represents the culmination of incredible work to treat all Washingtonians equally, and I couldn't be more pleased. Know that I will continue to do my part in maintaining our forward movement on issues of fairness and equality. Going backward is not an option.'
EVOLUTION IN PUBLIC OPINION
'On a local level, the biggest success for the LGBT community in 2010 was the re-election of U.S. Senator Patty Murray,' Anne Levinson, a local Lesbian activist, told SGN. 'Despite the Republican wave and enormous amounts of out-of-state money poured into the state from right-wing donors, Dino Rossi lost for a third time - and by a significant margin. Sen. Murray's victory was very good news for anyone who cares about equal rights, reproductive choice, our common obligation to care for those in need, the Supreme Court, and so many other important issues. Maintaining Democratic majorities in both houses of the State Legislature to protect the gains we've made in past years and getting the first out Lesbian state legislator elected were also highlights.'
In 2011, we will see continued evolution in public opinion as more individuals in the worlds of entertainment, sports, the military, and business come out and more movies, TV, social media and personal conversations help change hearts and minds.
'That progress, along with progress in the courts, will lead to policy-makers and politicians getting stronger on marriage equality, as we find other ways to move forward on immigration, on non-discrimination in employment and on the needs of our elders,' said Levinson.
'I hope we will also see growing solidarity across movements, as we find ways to collectively work for the public good,' she said. 'The LGBT community should be front and center in helping to get the DREAM ACT passed. It is a travesty that a country that aspires to be the moral leader of the world and a beacon of hope for individuals and nations everywhere cannot find the compassion to help America's next generation fulfill their dreams.'
'2011 will also see more efforts toward a unified voice across traditional lines - as happened this year in speaking out about bullying - as we work to draw attention to other issues such as child trafficking; the disproportionate number of LGBT youth on our streets, in the child welfare, and juvenile justice system; and the continued criminalization of LGBT men and women in more than 70 countries worldwide,' concluded Levinson.
EXCITING ADVANCEMENTS IN HIV/AIDS RESEARCH
This year marked Gay City Health Project's 15th year of being a force for change, proudly working to build a healthy Gay community.
'Despite the economic uncertainty that continues to affect us all, Gay City's programming and services have actually expanded this year as the needs of the Gay community continue to grow,' said Fred Swanson, executive director of Gay City Health Project. 'While our historical focus has been on Gay, Bi, and Trans men at Gay City, a large part of our work now calls Gay men into service to broader Queer communities, and enlists every part of the LGBT communities to rally together and help one another.'
Gay City is the leading community-based provider of free, anonymous HIV and STD testing in King County. They provided upwards of 2,300 HIV tests this year, reaching a record number of Gay, Bi, and Trans men who have sex with men. They continue to reach historically marginalized, under-served, or high-risk populations - 40% of those tested this year are men of color, 41% are age 30 or under, 11% are testing for the first time, and over 33% are uninsured.
'This past year has marked some exciting possible advancements in HIV/AIDS research, from new discoveries in the genetic makeup of the disease to possibilities resulting from stem cell research, but the need for testing is still great,' said Swanson. 'A recent CDC study estimates that one in five Gay men has HIV, and that 50% of those infected men are unaware that they are HIV-positive. Gay City has already identified 28% more new incidences of HIV infection this year than last year. We're making a real difference in our community by being able to connect these men to the resources that they will need to stay healthy, as well as a community that can support them.'
Outside of their HIV work, Gay City continues their work on SHIFT: A Peer Recovery Network to assist LGBT folks in recovery, hosts the Seattle LGBT Resource and Referral Line (206-323-LGBT), and is home to a free LGBT library of more than 2,000 books. As part of their innovative 'Tobactivism' project, Gay City will work with local businesses and organizations to explore how tobacco marketing and use impacts their LGBT employees, customers, and clients. The project will also provide them with the tools they need to create sound tobacco policies.
'As we move into 2011, Gay City looks forward to expanding our role as the hub of health, wellness, and community for LGBT individuals and families in our region,' said Swanson. 'We are grateful for the investment so many have made in our work as volunteers, clients, and donors. We look forward to the continued investment from many of the members of our community, and wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year.'
EQUALITY AND SUCCESS IN BUSINESS
2010 was a challenging year for our community, both economically and emotionally.
'Many of our small businesses struggled to stay open, and a number of our nonprofits saw grants shrink or disappear,' Louise Chernin, executive director of the Greater Seattle Business Association, told SGN. 'Probably some of the hardest news emotionally was focus from the press on LGBT youth suicides across the country. Unfortunately, as LGBT folks, we are all too aware of the pain and struggles that many in our community continue to experience because of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and rejection. So, for all of us who are part of the community, reading about it was not a revelation, but a poignant reminder that our work for equality is far from over. Hopefully, these stories will result in some action from those outside our community to take some personal responsibility, to speak out and intervene when they witness another person being mistreated or threatened.'
'Just when we felt wary that change will not come or is too slow, we witness a huge win in the overturning of DADT,' she said. 'It is a historic moment that will continue to have positive ripple effects in breaking down other barriers. In fact, this year, among those GSBA is honoring at our Annual Business and Humanitarian Awards Dinner on February 24 will be Major Margaret Witt, the air force nurse who was discharged under DADT. It will be an exciting moment when Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer presents the GSBA Voice for Social Justice Award to Major Witt.'
'As we come to a close in 2010, GSBA is grateful that our membership remained strong and our members continued to shop local, spend their precious dollars at LGBT- and allied-owned businesses, and donate to the nonprofits which serve our community,' Chernin said. 'GSBA is a business chamber like no other I know of, in that our members care about each other regardless of whether or not they are competitors. And the support that the GSBA Scholarship Fund received this year was unprecedented. I think our donors were looking at where they could make a positive difference in the lives of our youth, and supporting the next generation of leaders felt right.'
GSBA was able to launch several new initiatives in 2010, each focused on bringing new revenue dollars to their membership. GSBA launched a travel portal for LGBT tourists, Travel Gay Seattle, 'Where Out Is In.' The LGBT Travel site can be reached from the GSBA website if you click on Travel Gay Seattle, where you can find out how to 'Get Here,' 'Stay Here,' and 'Play Here.'
'All of our members in the hospitality industry are included in the GSBA travel site as part of their membership,' said Chernin.
'In addition to our tourism initiative, GSBA developed a legislative platform which we hope will guide us throughout 2011 in taking positions on issues ranging from healthcare, education, transportation, and immigration,' she said. 'Of course, LGBT civil rights will continue to be our number-one legislative priority, but as a business chamber, we also feel a responsibility to be a progressive business voice for the state of Washington.'
In addition to business lunches, after-hours Prime Time Mixers, Young Professionals with Pride, and Women at the Top, this year GSBA launched their OUTLeads Referral breakfast and lunch, where members can actually give each other business leads which might translate into new business for those participating.
'Once again, GSBA will be the proud publisher of the 30th edition of the GSBA Guide & Directory, both in print and online,' Chernin told SGN. 'In addition, GSBA will soon be releasing our very own iPhone app, which will include a location tracking device so customers can easily find our member businesses and nonprofits.'
'GSBA's biggest news for 2011 is that we will turn 30. We are the third-oldest LGBT business chamber in the United States, after San Francisco and San Diego, and, at age 30, we are the largest LGBT chamber in the U.S.,' concluded Chernin. 'We would not be in this position of strength without having the best members and community supporters a chamber could ever want. We are grateful and humbled by a membership which supports us with their precious marketing dollars and we give our commitment to continue to work for the success of our members, the economic health of our community, the future of our students, and for our most important goal: that of achieving equality for all.
LGBT EDUCATION AND TRAINING
'Every year, the Pride Foundation celebrates our community's growth and strengths. But 2010 was extra special, as it was our 25th year of working towards LGBTQ equality,' said Audrey Haberman, executive director of Pride Foundation. 'Volunteers, donors, grantees, and scholars joined in anniversary events all over Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Washington to reflect back on the thousands of projects and scholars that our community's dollars have supported - and to look forward to the future.'
Haberman said it was humbling to think of all the people and organizations that have contributed their time, talents, and money to get the community to this point.
'Pride Foundation contributors also share a common vision in bringing people, ideas, and resources together to strengthen community and ignite change that advances LGBTQ equality. Things have come a very long way since our founding in 1985,' said Haberman. 'With the help of our donors and volunteers, Pride Foundation supported passionate leaders in 2010 by providing $342,000 in scholarships to 110 students of all ages - a 29% increase over the previous year. More than $6.6 million was granted to 232 amazing nonprofits through our grants, donor-advised funds, and the Ric Weiland Legacy Fund.'
'2011 will be another landmark year for us as we expand our regional staff team to include at least one new full-time staff person working on the ground in each state,' she said. 'By investing in this new team to lead our local philanthropic and community-development strategies, we know that we can increase our understanding of local issues and work even more collaboratively to build the future of equality in the Northwest.'
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