June 23, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 25
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Monday, May 27, 2019



New intern hits the road for ERW
New intern hits the road for ERW
Andrea Banks, an intern at Equal Rights Washington, (ERW) grew up outside of Philadelphia. She moved to Seattle on her own at 16, volunteering, helping Plymouth Housing Group, and working a variety of jobs to pay the rent. Andrea enjoyed Seattle and she's passionate about marriage equality, so when she was looking for an internship between years of law school at Temple University, she jumped at the chance to work with Equal Rights Washington.

Andrea had the opportunity to meet with people at Bellingham and Yakima Pride celebrations, and she found the experience eye-opening and invigorating. People shared with her their struggles within their communities, and she was impressed with their courage and their optimism. She said, "I was struck by how determined people were to live as who they were without apology, and to make their communities an accepting place for their kids."

Many families visited the ERW booth at Pride events in Yakima and Bellingham. Andrea, and ERW's office manager Matt Lee, saw many same-sex couples intentionally raising their children in small towns, whether to be near family or because they prefer the quiet community to a bustling urban center. It's not easy to be out in a small community, especially one where conservative religious communities have great influence, but throughout Washington state, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people are standing up, speaking out, and living their lives.

Andrea said, "In Bellingham, there were people who had been out for only a week, but they were at Pride. Of course, their coming out was part of a longer process, but once they'd come out, they decided to really be out, and to come to Pride to meet people within their own community. Many of these people were in their 30's or older, coming out after years of living as if they were straight. And they're coming out now."

Everywhere we go, ERW is asking marriage equality supporters to sign postcards to their state legislators, letting them know that people around the state care about marriage and recognize that civil unions are not enough. In Bellingham, working jointly with Lambda Legal, we collected postcards from 700 people. Andrea said, "Bellingham Pride felt safe, accepting. People were coming in off the street to see what was going on. We'd ask people to sign and they'd say, of course, we want our family to be legally recognized, or we want our son or daughter to be able to marry. It was amazingly positive."

Yakima is a smaller, more conservative town. Many courageous LGBT people live openly there, but many others still feel unsafe coming out. After finding it so easy to get people to sign postcards in Bellingham, Andrea found more hesitation in Yakima. "Growing up in cities for most of my life, I was struck by the amount of courage that it takes LGBT people in more conservative communities to live their lives each day.

"One man, who'd been closeted for years, was recently the victim of a hate crime. He was beaten for being Gay, and his response was to come out and tell his story, which I thought was very brave. He said he hadn't been visibly out before this, but since they outed him, he wanted to out his attackers for what they did."

One Lesbian couple with a young child told Andrea that when they moved to Yakima, they had trouble finding a house. They refused to lie about their relationship, and that made it harder to find a place to live. Now that the state's anti-discrimination law is in place, fewer families should have those problems.

Even when people were fearful in Yakima, they were determined to live there with their families. They were unwilling to give up their home community because of their sexual orientations. It's those people - and every LGBT person who comes out and talks about our lives with family and friends - who are changing hearts and minds, making life safer and fairer for all of us.

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