Friday
July 15, 2005

Volume 33
Issue 28

IN THE SGN

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Sep 02, 2014
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Section One  
Equal Rights Washington appoints new executive director
Equal Rights Washington appoints new executive director
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

The Equal Rights Washington board of directors announced this week that it has appointed Fran Dunaway as new executive director. Dunaway is said to bring much needed nonprofit experience, media savvy and fundraising skills to the organization.

"Dunaway's unique set of skills is exactly what is needed to pass the Civil Rights Bill in the next legislative session and to ensure equal rights in Washington's State's marriage laws as well," said ERW Board Chair Roberta Domos.

Dunaway says her roots lie in the deep South - her parents are from Biloxi, Miss., and she earned her college degrees from the University of Missouri. There, she earned a Bachelors in Psychology with a minor in Management and a Masters of Education in Counseling Psychology. She worked as a human resources administrator and executive director for eight years before selling everything she owned to pay her way through film school. She said she moved to the Northwest in 1987 because it was the first place she visited that had both mountains and water.

She began her political activism on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community as a member of the Bellingham steering committee of Hands Off Washington. She worked with Seattle-based LHKK Media to defeat anti-Gay ballot measures in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Oregon. Currently, she is the Human Rights Campaign's Seattle steering committee co-char and former member of HRC's Board of Governors. In her capacity with HRC, she has volunteered for numerous campaigns at federal and local levels.

She co-chaired the Seattle HRC dinner for the past two years and helped raise over $500,000 for HRC during the last five years. According to Dunaway, one of her goals is to develop a signature fundraising event for Equal Rights Washington in Seattle and other cities throughout the state.

Dunaway replaces George Cheung who acted as interim executive director for the last three months. Cheung, who has a Bachelors in Political Science from Brown University and a Masters in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, had also applied for the executive director position. He told the Seattle Gay News that he will now return to the board of the organization.

"George [Cheung] has done a terrific job as interim director and is now going to continue as a board member. He has laid a great foundation upon which to build," Dunaway said. "I am excited about the opportunity to take it to the next level. I have a lot of organization systems processing skills. I look forward to making ERW a statewide organization and working as a coalition builder among LGBT organizations statewide as well as nationally."

This week, the SGN spoke with Dunaway about her background, her vision for ERW and the issues that face the LGBT community in Washington State.

SGN: Tell us more about your background please.

Fran Dunaway: I have been working in the film and video industry over the past nine years. I have my own company, but I am taking a hiatus to work on this important equal rights work. I have been on the Human Rights Campaign board of governors for the past four years. I was co-chair for the HRC Dinner for two years. I am currently co-chair of the [Seattle HRC] steering committee, but my term expires at the first of October and I will not be re-upping. I just resigned from the HRC's board upon taking this job, but my term was up in October anyway.

I have lived in the Northwest since 1987. I lived in Bellingham and was actually on the steering committee of Hands Off Washington in Bellingham. That was kind of my first foray into the political arena; keeping Lon Mabon out of our state. Then, I decided to apply for the executive director job for Equal Rights Washington primarily because I have been extremely impressed by the work and growth of this organization. This organization is run by primarily volunteers and a volunteer board that has thought long about what ERW should be&. I am excited about the opportunity to take it to the next level. I have a lot of organization systems processing skills. I look forward to making ERW a statewide organization and working as a coalition builder among LGBT organizations statewide as well as nationally.

SGN: Do you think the process of building strong organization bears any resemblance to the process you undergo while making a film?

FD: I feel confident that the skills I have learned as a previous executive director and as a film and video producer - working with a lot of different people with a lot of different ideas - will prove I am qualified. First and foremost, you have to have a certain set of values about how you treat people and how you work together. Then, I think that you have to get things done. Certainly, doing film work you don't have time to deliberate or think about how to get things done; often you have to react. I think there are some similarities toward the work that I will be doing at Equal Rights Washington. I think campaigns are similar in terms organizing people and bringing a lot of people together and in terms of running an event&.

In film work, the thing that everyone is focused on is what is in front of the camera lens. You have 50 to 60 people and that is what everyone is focused completely on; what is in front of this little cameral lens. In ERW we focus on our issues - getting House Bill 1515 passed this year and marriage equality. What I love about film work, which I hope to bring to this work, is the ability to collaborate with other people; putting a lot of great minds together to get the job done.

SGN: What has been your formal campaign experience?

FD: I have worked with LHKK Media here in Seattle&there was an anti-Gay initiative in Cincinnati that we were able to successfully repeal. I also worked with LHKK Media on the No on 36 campaign down in Oregon during that battle. I have worked on campaigns. I have done fundraising for various Senators and Representatives, obviously through my work with HRC. Then, I worked for a person running for city council, I worked on his campaign.

SGN: HRC has been very supportive of ERW. How would you define the relationship you have had with the organization and the kind of relationship you hope to have in the future?

FD: The Human Rights Campaign has been a tremendous help for Equal Rights Washington. Last year, they gave us a considerable contribution and their staff was here for several weeks [assisting in getting the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill passed]. They have been a resource we can contact for information, for ideas, or for other resources. ERW is meeting with Joe [Solmonese], HRC's president, on Friday. I am 100 percent confident that we will continue to work together and that HRC will be a strong supporter of the work that we are doing here&

As I said earlier, it is all about collaboration and community building. HRC has done on a nationwide level what we need to do at the state level. We can learn a lot from their experiences. That is an invaluable asset to our the community& We will continue to hopefully work with them on these battles that we will be facing.

SGN: There is an effort in Spokane to repeal domestic partner benefits for city employees. Are you eager to see ERW get into that fight?

FD: I have a conference call scheduled for tomorrow afternoon to discuss ways that ERW can help. I have different strategies and ways that we can work together with Spokane organizations to successfully thwart this effort.

SGN: We are waiting on a State Supreme Court decision on marriage equality litigation, which could come down at any moment. What has been done and what needs to be done to prepare for that decision?

FD: We need to be prepared for the decision, whichever way it goes. We need to strategize around plan A, plan B and plan C. I have a meeting tomorrow with Lisa Stone of the Northwest Women's Law Center. I will have a lot more information after talking with her& The thing that we have to take to heart is that our community is under attack and is being used as a scapegoat& This has been going on since Bush first ran for Governor in Texas. We need to be talking to people and identifying allies who will stand up with us and say, "Enough is enough." We need to be working together so that we can be clear in our messaging. Recognizing that we are under attack, we need to come together to fight the battle that lie ahead.

SGN: Obviously, to do the work that ERW needs to do requires a lot of money. Is ERW "there" yet in terms of finances?

FD: We need to raise lots of money. We are being outspent by the religious right that is attacking us& We are being outspent by an enormous amount. There is a lot of Focus on the Family money coming into this state. There are a lot of organizations putting money into this state because they know we have the marriage equality issue coming up; they know we have House Bill 1515 coming up. A $50 or $100 check to ERW on a monthly basis is essential to getting this work done. I think that is the most important thing we can do as a community. It is like a tithing to your church. We need to be giving to organizations like Equal Rights Washington so that we are prepared. We can get the infrastructure built up. We can get the membership built up. We can get a steering committee of different organization through out the state, so that we can react and fight back.

SGN: You mentioned the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill, House Bill 1515. It came the closest it has ever come to passing this year, but failed by one vote. What is ERW's strategy for this next legislative session?

FD: I am meeting with our lobbyists next week and we have been having conversations with the governor and other organizations locally. I think we have the opportunity to do it again and we are going to win - absolutely. House Bill 1515 will pass next year.

SGN: What vision do you have for the organization? Where would you like to see ERW go over the next few years?

FD: I think Washington State need a sustainable, viable organization that is focused on LGBT rights and that can be there for every community at every corner of Washington State. I think we need to grow as an organization that has a solid core of full-time staff that are not only working on political issues, but education and outreach. We can be a lot of things for the LGBT community throughout Washington State. We can work together to strengthen our political stature as well as educating and empowering members of our community and ourselves.

SGN: You have a good point about education. Is it your belief that it is important to not only educate ourselves about the issues, but also to educate the general public about our lives and our issues?

FD: I think that one of the most important things we can do as a community is talk to our co-workers and our family members about our experiences. When polls are taken of people who were voting for anti-Gay initiatives, these people said that they don't know anyone who is Gay. We know that is not true. Their LGBT friends and family are just not talking. We have to learn to face our own fears and be honest about who are and the life that we are leading& That is why it is important for those who live in the city to learn ways to educate and help build that strength and outreach that are needed nationwide. We are not going to win any of our battles without our allies stepping up.

What is key, in terms of the political status of the states right now, is the fact we are being duped by allowing a political party to use people in a bigoted way; to use bigotry to scare people into voting a certain way. We need people to look up and say, "You know what? I am not buying that anymore." This is a human rights issue. This is about equality. Equality is a value that all Washingtonians have and that is a value that is non-negotiable. We are to frame it in such a way that we are talking about our values and we are standing up for our values. Our values are just as valid and strong in many ways. They are heartfelt in my opinion.

SGN: What threat do religious conservatives in our state pose to the fight for equal treatment of LGBT people?

FD: I think that they do represent a fringe in our state. We have tremendous support from the Multifaith Alliance. There is a growing contingent that is concerned about the hatred that is being used by these groups to scare people and divide people. A lot of people are recognizing that they need to come together - people of faith, people of color - from all walks of life to stand up and fight for equal rights for all Washingtonians.

SGN: What else do you want our readers to know?

FD: I think it is very important that people find a way to contribute to Equal Rights Washington. If you can't do it financially, call us and do some volunteering. We have a lot of outreach to do; a lot of community to build in cities throughout Washington State. Call us with your ideas and suggestions. Our hope is to raise the kind of money we need to win this fight.

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STRAIGHT
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NOTE** finding non clickable links? Sorry these columns are not featured in this weeks edition