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Volume 35
Issue 09
 
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Equality Day 2007: 1,500 rally for equal marriage, domestic partner benefits
Equality Day 2007: 1,500 rally for equal marriage, domestic partner benefits
by Jacob Clark - SGN Staff

The state Capitol Building in Olympia was the setting for the third annual Equality Day. Massed on the Capitol steps were approximately 1,500 activists and LGBT families, according to an estimate given by Joshua Friedes, Advocacy Director for Equal Rights Washington. The Religious Coalition for Equality joined Equal Rights Washington in sponsoring the event, and dozens of groups supporting full equality for LGBT individuals and families attended.

The exuberance of the crowd and the excellent speakers made the rally a rousing success, despite the frigid temperatures in the shade of the Capitol building at noon. Equal Rights Washington proclaimed its support for marriage equality measures in the House and Senate (House Bill 1350 and Senate Bill 5335), as well as for the domestic partnership legislation (HB 1351 and SB 5336).

Rev. Monica Corsaro, of RCE, extolled everyone to hold up their fists to "pound at the door" of the legislature. "And we are going to keep pounding at the door until people get full marriage rights," she added. Joshua Friedes advised attendees to lobby their legislators after the rally, to encourage them to vote for the Marriage Equality Bill and the Domestic Partnership Bill, and to thank those who are already supporting the bills. The domestic partnership bill will be debated soon in both chambers of the Legislature, he said.

The speakers agreed that the Domestic Partnership Bill is a step toward full equality, not an end in itself. And it looks as if it has a chance of success. Representative Jamie Pedersen of the 43rd District said that "56 of 98 Representatives cosponsored the (DP) bill, as did 21 Senators."

State Senator Ed Murray of the 43rd District gave an especially inspiring address: "After 29 long years, this Legislature finally passed the LGBT Civil Rights Bill. We are gathered here, as we have in the past, on these steps because we are driven. We are driven, in the words of Isaiah 'To make justice our aim.' Justice demands more of us. Justice demands that our families get the recognition and protections they deserve. Justice demands that the only recognition and protection, which in the end works, is marriage.

"The Jewish theologian, Abraham Joshua Herschel wrote, 'An act of justice is condemned, not because a law is broken, but because a person has been hurt.' Hurt is what our families experience, hurt at school, hurt at the retirement home, hurt at the hospital, hurt at the funeral home. This is the hurt that Charlene Strong so courageously spoke of in front of the House and Senate committees. And justice demands that this hurt come to an end. That is why, as people of faith, we are gathered here on these steps. Faith has often been used in these halls to perpetuate and justify that hurt. Today we are here to offer a different voice of faith. We believe that faith is the voice of unity over division, understanding over ignorance and love over bigotry.

"The struggle for marriage equality has not been, and it will not, be easy. But we will not change the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens by returning the threats, the intimidation, the hate and self-righteousness with our own. We will win the hearts and minds of this Legislature and the citizens of this state, when we tell the stories of our families, when we are out as families. And we will win. So to our elected officials we have a special message today. We will win and we will not wait another 29 years!"

Rev. Stephen Jones offered a humorous observation. "Do those who want to return to Biblical marriage desire husbands to have concubines? Are they calling for polygamy? Or perhaps they favor the idea that wives are the possession of their husbands, with unequal rights. Or perhaps they think that marriages should be arranged by parents?"

After the rally, participants sought out their district legislators to lobby for passage of the Domestic Partnership Bill. In a post-Equality Day interview, Friedes said "The lobbying effort was very successful-we met with more legislators than ever before. These were very timely meetings as the DP bill will be before the Senate and the House any day now. It was great to put a human face on the issue, and the effort was well-received by the legislators."

A number of legislators came out to the rally to show their support for Equality Day. Senators Adam Kline (D-37), and Debbie Regala (D-27) and Representatives Jim Moeller (D-49), Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36), Dave Upthegrove (D-33) and, Frank Chopp (D-43), Speaker of the House, were among those acknowledged for their presence, but did not speak.

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