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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 28
'Right now, we are at a tipping point'
SGN talks with Rod Hearne, ERW's new executive director
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'Right now, we are at a tipping point'
SGN talks with Rod Hearne, ERW's new executive director

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Rod Hearne, newly appointed executive director for Equal Rights Washington (ERW), the state's key LGBT equality organization, says his first week as the group's new head has been 'amazing.'

Late last week, Hearne was named executive director of ERW while Josh Friedes, the former top administrator, moved to a new position as the organization's marriage equality director and announced a push for same-sex marriage equality in Washington state, possibly as early as 2012.

Hearne, a longtime activist and fundraiser for civil rights causes, will oversee the education fund, lobbying, and other aspects that make up the advocacy organization's core. Hearne previously served on the board of ERW.

'There is so much going on right now,' Hearne told SGN. 'I've been working on getting my bearings in the first week as executive director.'

He says he is 'very impressed' by the outpouring of community support for 'not only myself in this new role, but for Josh Friedes and ERW for pressing ahead to achieve marriage equality in Washington state.'

Hearne said the level of engagement - from the community and volunteers - is amazing.

Some of the excitement Hearne says he is feeling is in part due to the results of recent internal polls that ERW has conducted. 'Things are looking incredibly positive,' he said. 'The quality of the polls and the number for marriage equality has moved up since what we saw at the last check. We are very excited about that.'

Hearne says he has been impressed with ERW for some time. 'ERW is the go-to organization when stuff needs to go through the legislature,' he said. 'We've got the best lobbying team, volunteers, and network of engagement in the state. We are right at the center of political culture for LGBT civil rights.'

Hearne says that although there are a lot of great LGBT organizations in Washington - Seattle in particular - 'ERW is the at the center of the political sphere.'

'Right now, we are at a tipping point with marriage equality and achieving a new benchmark of civil rights for LGBT people in Washington,' he said. 'Marriage is so iconic in the way we understand our relationships. If we can achieve marriage equality, then the way we see each other as LGBT individuals, or straight individuals, won't be seen as different in any way that deserves discrimination in terms of civil rights.'

'I've been given this opportunity to play a part, and it seemed too great to pass up,' said Hearne.

Although ERW officials have mentioned the polling and outreach - and eventual education program - they've yet to explain the campaign they will launch to achieve marriage equality. The reason, say officials, is because they don't want to announce anything until they have a sound and solid campaign that is ready to take on - and win - the conservative base outside of the Seattle area. In addition, there isn't any one way to achieve marriage equality in Washington. It is possible through the courts, in the legislature, or by popular vote. Only time will tell which of the three wins out. Still, ERW says they are going for it, and they need the help of the community.

'This is a great time to get engaged,' Hearne told SGN. 'We hope that you would help ERW engage not only you, but that you help engage the state for marriage equality.'

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