Writer’s Note: Sorry for the delay in getting this article out, it has been a busy week.
Last Tuesday, just over 75 people gathered in the Fairhaven College auditorium to get fired up about equality. A whole coalition of organizations, lead by Washington United for Marriage, is pushing the effort this year for full marriage equality and they held a public meeting about it. The event opened with a prayer from local clergy and then it was followed by Mayor Dan Pike speaking. I know I have been rather rough on Mayor Pike, but I believe in calling it as I see it, and Dan Pike gave a great speech in support of equality. “I’ve had people ask me why are these issues important, we have civil unions, we’ve come so far,” said Mayor Pike. “My mother raised me to recognize that if you didn’t recognize the humanity in everyone, you diminish your own a little bit, or more than a little bit.” He noted that this battle is mainly played out along generational lines, “For people under 35 this is a no brainer, over time it will get taken care of, but justice should never have to wait. It is always the right time to do the right thing.”
Other speakers came and went, each one with a vital story to tell. Michele Kammerer and her partner Janis Walworth, two halves of the consulting group “Gender Sanity” that does advising with businesses about how to tackle issues of transgender. They told their own story of trying to get married and bringing that determination to bear on the people around them.
Nick Melhon, chair of Bellingham Pride, noted that the focus will be on convincing your legislators. Kevin Ranker and Kris Lytton have already agreed as co-signers to the Equality bill, which leaves Jeff Morris in the 40th, and Vincent Buys, Jason Overstreet and Doug Ericksen (who you might remember attacks working people, and the press) in the 42nd district.
The opposition is already organizing on this issue too. The Whatcom Republicans sent out an email to all their subscribers (read it on their website here) urging them to call their legislators and tell them to, “to focus on the economy and forget about homosexual marriage.”
Organizers for Washington United for Equality were passing out cards to sign supporting equality that will be hand-delivered to legislators and will be coordinating groups of citizens to meet directly their representatives. Terry Bornemann gave by far one of the most emotional speeches of the night. “We believe in personal freedom and honoring it. Falling in love is a great thing and the institution of marriage is a great thing and I recommend it for everyone, but that’s easy for me to say. I fell in love with someone of the opposite sex. A toss of the dice and I could have fallen in love with a man. If we are all made in God’s image shouldn’t we all be treated equal?” Thank you Terry Bornemann. It is time for this to happen.
This effort has been building for years, starting with a basic civil unions law that provided some sort of legal status for same-sex partners. Next, we strengthened that law, until in 2009 the legislature passed the “Everything but the word” update that gave full legal rights to civil unions. However, since the federal government only recognizes “marriages” there a whole host of other benefits that remain out of reach for Washingtonian couples. This year, there is the energy and the passion to make it happen. Now we just need the votes.
Later in the week, I will be introducing a new guest columnist, the Gender Junkie, who will be covering this issue for the rest of the year.