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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 29, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 13
America speaks: Rallies in Seattle and nationwide support hearings at SCOTUS
Section One
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America speaks: Rallies in Seattle and nationwide support hearings at SCOTUS

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

We don't yet know what the U.S. Supreme Court will decide about the constitutionality of Prop 8 and DOMA, but the rest of America has made up its mind. For the first time in my life I can honestly say I feel we've won the marriage debate.

Evidence of that can be found with the release of polls from around the nation that show well over 50% of Americans agree with allowing same-sex couples to wed. But more so, I would point to the many hundreds of rallies - in big cities and small towns - on March 26 and 27 (the two days this week that SCOTUS heard Prop 8 and DOMA arguments), that were attended by members of our community and our allies.

Holding signs of support at rallies, turning Facebook and other social media red (for love), and writing letters to the editor in newspapers and words of encouragement on personal blogs, straight family members stood by their LGBTQ relatives. Open and Affirming churches reminded everyone that they accept members of the LGBTQ community into their congregation. Business owners and CEOs voiced their support and even backed it with the mantra, 'Marriage equality is good for business.' And we, the very community that has been oppressed for far too long, stood next to each other in solidarity to proclaim, 'Enough! Do the right thing. Give us our freedom.'

America stood united for love. People are understanding that that is what is at the very crux of this issue. Love. Sure, it is also about fairness and equality, but in the long run we just want the right to be able to marry the person we love and have that marriage be equal under the law.

It's been an exhausting battle, one with many casualties. Partners of Gay and Lesbian citizens who were ill or injured passing away without their loved one by their side in the final moments of life. Families disinheriting and disassociating from the boyfriend or girlfriend that their own son or daughter spent years loving, once they died. Careers ruined. Lives destroyed. Our people have been sent to so-called ex-Gay hospitals or worse. Our love and our relationships ignored, history erased, and all for what? So the religious right and the ultra-conservative movement could continue, desperately, to try to conserve hate and a time long gone that will never return.

It will never return because we, the people (LGBTQ and Allied), will remain vigilant on this issue - and the many other issues our community and culture still face. We will not forget.

Now, I understand we cannot yet call this an all out victory. But we have achieved is the changing of the hearts and minds of millions of Americans on an issue of basic fairness and freedom. Love is the answer. Love always was the answer - it took some people, including our president, a little longer than we'd like but we got them there. And for that we should always remain grateful.

SEATTLE RALLY
A few months ago, Seattle resident Marley Blonsky approached me and asked if we would help her with an idea for a project she had.

'Sure,' I said, not yet knowing the massive job we faced. 'What can we do for you?'

Blonsky began to tell me about March 26 and 27 and that she wanted to plan a rally for that occasion. Not yet knowing that SCOTUS had agreed to hear the Prop 8 and DOMA cases on those days, I asked her what this rally was intended to be about.

'Marriage equality in all 50 states,' she said.

'Social Outreach Seattle is all-in 100% on this project,' I promised her.

And we were. Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) members Sarah Toce, Mike Andrew, and Daniel Hanks formed a committee with Blonsky and her wife, Whitney Young, to produce the March 27 solidarity rally in Seattle: 'Marriage Equality U.S.A.'

On Wednesday, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle, over 250 people gathered to show support for our brothers and sisters in the 40 states that currently do not have the freedom to marry, and to demand that SCOTUS do away with Prop 8 and DOMA. The feeling in the air was magical. Love was all around.

The Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle generously donated their sound equipment. Girly Press, a Lesbian-owned and operated printing company, donated the printing of all of our posters and flyers. The community sent representatives from Equal Rights Washington to Pride Foundation and more.

The rally was also formally endorsed by Martin Luther King County Labor Council, Seattle Gay News, The Seattle Lesbian, and Pride at Work.

LOCAL HEROES
Speaking at the rally was marriage equality advocate superstar Josh Friedes (ERW), Transgender activist and hero Marsha Botzer (Ingersoll), the amazing Kris Hermanns (Pride Foundation), bi-national couple Otts Bolisay and Ken Thompson, local social and economic justice advocate Debbie Carlsen (LGBTQ Allyship/UNITE HERE Local 8), the brilliant Sarah Toce (The Seattle Lesbian), myself, and Sahar Fathi of the ACLU.

Each one of us told a story or praised the crowd for getting off the computer and out into the streets, and generally gave a good speech. But that's to be expected. But the one amazing thing that became the theme of the day, was that we talked about 'the movement' but also mentioned people we knew personally or offered up our own personal story.

I brought forward my fiance, Yee-Shin Huang, and expressed how much I love him. 'I'm head over heels in love with this guy,' I said, trying not to tear up. 'He has really changed my life. He centers me and I can't wait to marry him.' Yee-Shin and I will marry on May 25 at Plymouth Church in downtown Seattle.

In addition, I called forward straight ally Dru Dinero, founder and CEO at Visual Affairs media production company, to thank him for all the amazing work he did for the Approve Referendum 74 campaign. Dinero and those like him, I said, are why we have marriage equality in Washington. I think it is important to remind people of that fact.

Botzer, a brilliant public speaker, told the crowd, 'Let them go! Let Prop 8 and DOMA go!' It is important, she said, to now get to work on other areas of inequality within the LGBTQ community. Transgender rights, near and dear to her heart, is a good start, she asserted.

Hermanns suffered the devastating loss delivered to California residents in 2008. At the time, she served as deputy director at National Center for Lesbian Rights, which played a key role in the No on 8 campaign. She told the March 27 crowd that she was changed by that experience forever. And so the jubilation she felt when marriage equality came to Washington, historically delivered to us by voters, she was overjoyed. Hermanns also reiterated that our relationships are not second-best, and that we have every right to the same freedoms our heterosexual counterparts enjoy.

In a particularly moving presentation, bi-national couple, Otts and Ken told their story. The two men have been together for 12 years. Otts isn't a U.S. citizen and is here temporarily on a work visa. A straight couple in the same situation could marry and remain together in the U.S. But even if Ken and Otts were to marry, they explained, DOMA prevents Ken from sponsoring Otts to stay in the country.

Friedes was glowing with happiness when he addressed the crowd. For over a decade he has argued that Gays and Lesbians should have the freedom to marry. He did this first, and successfully, in Massachusetts, and then here in Washington beginning some six years ago. Friedes praised the people of faith who joined us in the fight for freedom and said that he was hopeful of the things to come for our community. Like Botzer and others that day, Friedes reiterated that there is still work to be done and that it is our obligation to continue to support those who supported us during our times of need.

Toce read a statement from Sen. Ed Murray, the openly Gay candidate for mayor of Seattle (endorsed by SGN) and the champion of the marriage equality bill in the state Senate. She also said that we are winning this fight because we are all human beings and at the end of the day that is what this argument is all about - that we, as LGBTQ people, are no different than anyone else.

LET'S UNITE, WITH PRIDE
I'm proud of the guest speakers for their vulnerability because it really resonated with the crowd, some of whom came from as far away as Vancouver, B.C.

And what a crowd it was. Diversity reigned supreme. Beautiful, cheery, and decked out in red, it was one of the most beautiful sights these eyes have ever seen.

The one thing that I would like to see change most here in Seattle is that our pride reach an all-time high. There are those in our own community who seek to divide organizations, or scoff at the idea of raising the Pride flag above businesses, homes, and the Space Needle. I'd like to see their views changed. I'd like for us all to really and truly understand that we are worth it, we are not less-than, and that having pride in ourselves and our community is essential.

We are winning. That much is certain. And I am so honored to be among the leaders who helped to shape what this outcome will look like. Social Outreach Seattle is only six months old, and already we've made a big difference. It has been, to date, the single most important thing that has happened to me. The next? Marrying Yee-Shin on May 25.

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What will the Supreme Court do now?
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America speaks: Rallies in Seattle and nationwide support hearings at SCOTUS
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Meet Gunner Scott - Pride Foundation's new program director has wealth of experience
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Cocktail Chatter: Go Greyhound!
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