by Joshua Friedes, executive director of Equal Rights Washington -
Courtesy of Equal Rights Washington
Live Proud is the theme of this year's pride festival. At ERW, we believe that sharing our stories and being active in the struggle for LGBTQ equality is an essential element of living proudly. This is true whether you are a member of the LGBTQ community or a straight ally.
We have much to celebrate this year. The legislature concluded their session in May. Even as we face an unprecedented budget crisis, the legislature, for the sixth consecutive session, passed landmark LGBTQ civil rights legislation.
The legislature rolled back the state's odious 'DOMA' by passing the out-of-state marriage recognition bill, which provides the rights and benefits of domestic partnership to same-sex couples with valid legal marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The legislature also passed a first-in-the-nation gender-neutral Uniform Parentage Act. By doing this, the legislature recognized that many children have same-sex parents, and made it easier for Gay and Lesbian parents to establish their legal relationship to their children. And finally, the legislature passed an update to our anti-bullying law. This update, among other things, requires that suicide prevention be taught in health classes.
Washington is lucky to have so many openly LGBT legislators who are leading with integrity. Our legislative success is due in large part to the work being done by our openly Gay legislators. Senator Ed Murray and Representatives Jim Moeller, Jamie Pedersen, Marko Liias, Laurie Jinkins, and Dave Upthegrove each deserve our thanks and support. Our openly LGBT elected leaders in other offices make an enormous difference. And while there are many, we take a moment to thank former State Senator Joe McDermott who now serves as the first openly Gay member of the King County Council. His introduction of a Pride declaration this year reminds us of the importance of having openly Gay people serving in elected office. So, consider running for political office or getting involved with the political party of your choice.
We should note that four Republican senators voted for each of the three Gay rights bills discussed above. Steve Litzow, Andy Hill, and Joe Fain deserve our thanks for voting for legislation that protects LGBT individuals and families during their freshman year in office. Cheryl Pflug continued her record of supporting equality for LGBT Washingtonians.
In the struggle for marriage equality, 2011 marks a tipping point. In Washington, this was the year where polls for the first time showed that more Washington voters supported marriage equality than opposed it. But polls don't vote, people do.
We - Gay and straight - must continue to talk in personal terms to our friends, family, co-workers, congregants, and neighbors about why marriage matters. We must do this every day and find creative ways of doing this, from expressing this as our birthday wish, to posting on our Facebook pages, and organizing educational programs at our houses of worship. And we must ask everyone we know to join us in advocating for marriage equality.
With hard work, we have made Washington one of the best states in America for Transgender people to live. We have Transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination, anti-bullying, and hate crimes laws. But access to healthcare and its affordability remain giant issues. Transgender Washingtonians face absolutely unacceptable discrimination in civic life. A variety of issues facing many Transgender people, from aging to homelessness to treatment in the criminal justice system, remain largely invisible even in our community.
While we are starting to talk more and more in our community about issues like aging and the problems facing undocumented LGBT immigrants, many segments of our diverse community remain vulnerable and underserved. We can and must do better. Our mantra must be that no part of the community can be left behind. Washington is a leader in the struggle for LGBTQ civil rights. We must demonstrate that it is possible to move forward together, even as, from moment to moment, different issues will be the focus of our work, particularly in the legislature or on the ballot.
I am frequently asked when I believe we will achieve marriage equality. While nobody can make promises, I believe that marriage equality could come as soon as 2012, but only if we work together as a unified movement. We will need to dig deep to raise the money needed to mount an unprecedented public education and lobbying campaign. We will need to engage our allies in labor and business and in faith communities. We will need to work together while understanding that within our communities, we value different strategies and tactics. And we must remember that marriage equality is an important milestone in our quest for full legal and social equality, but it is not itself the final goal of our civil rights struggle.
Happy Pride, and let us work together so that a child born today will never know the sting of discrimination that we have known. And may that sting of discrimination give us the passion to ensure that each of us works for the dignity and equality of all humankind.
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