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Volunteer to keep Referendum 71 off the ballot
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Volunteer to keep Referendum 71 off the ballot

by Charles Drabkin - Special to the SGN

We've all heard the phrase 'out of the frying pan and into the fire.' I feel like I'm living it! Because of the threat posed by Referendum 71, I decided to take off my chef's hat several days a week and pitch in as a volunteer with Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST), the statewide coalition working to retain our state's domestic partnership law.

The WAFST coalition was formed at the end of May in response to a group that calls itself 'Protect Marriage Washington,' announcing it was going to start collecting signatures to try to put a referendum on the ballot to repeal the domestic partnership law. In just a few weeks, the WAFST coalition grew to more than 50 groups across the state. Organizations such as the Urban League, the Anti-Defamation League, Organization of Chinese Americans of Greater Seattle, FUSE, Women's Funding Alliance, the Latino Political Action Committee, Jewish Federation, Planned Parenthood, and the Japanese American Citizen's League, all quickly stepped forward to take a stand, to ensure that individuals and our families are treated fairly and with dignity and respect.

As I talk with my own friends, I see firsthand how important it is that we not be complacent, that we as a community must continue to take action and to protect what is still fragile. We need to keep broadening the discussion and understanding, whether it is explaining to co-workers how not having these protections in the law can put our families at risk, or asking our friends to stay vigilant and engaged. Activism takes many shapes. WAFST provides tools so that everyone can do their part in whatever way works best for them. There are so many ways we can each help.

If you haven't yet added your name to WAFST's Decline 2 Sign campaign, I urge you to do that. Just log onto www.WAFST.org. Then forward the Decline 2 Sign link to all your friends and family members. Tens of thousands of people across Washington have already done that. I can't think of a better way to show the breadth of support across the state for our families.

Now is the time to act. Thanks to the leadership of the Governor and Legislature, we have domestic partnerships, but we must dig in to do more work to fight back against those whose goal is to repeal laws that protect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people and our families. Over the coming weeks, everyone can be an advocate for our community once they understand the harm that comes when essential rights and protections are not provided to all families.

Friends and neighbors are organizing pub crawls, hosting community barbeques and writing letters to the editor of their local newspaper, all to protect Washington's families. People have been taking pledge forms to church, community gatherings, and work, describing in their own terms how the repeal of Washington's domestic partnership law will affect their lives. Faith leaders and congregation members are urging their communities to Decline 2 Sign. In Spokane, high school and college students volunteered their time, collecting hundreds of Decline 2 Sign pledges.

If you have not yet done so, please visit our website at www.WAFST.org. The "Take Action" area has several creative ways you can get the word out to your friends, family and co-workers about how important this campaign is to you. For example, you may wish to change your voicemail messages or e-mail signature to include a Decline 2 Sign message. Through the website, you can also sign our pledge, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Our Organizational Endorsement Form is also located on the site so if you are involved in a community organization, ask your group to be part of this statewide effort. Under the "Handout" section of our website you will find Decline 2 Sign pledge forms as well as a short piece that explains the important legal ramifications of Referendum 71.

When we tell our stories, the truth becomes clear. If everyone does their part to protect domestic partnership rights, we will win. Our opponents are running out of time to gather the signatures they need to roll back the law. We know they will be actively gathering signatures the next three weeks to get Referendum 71 on the ballot. We urge just and fair-minded people everywhere to gather more Decline 2 Sign pledges, take other steps and help keep Referendum 71 from qualifying for the ballot.

Chef Charles Drabkin's work focuses on organizing sustainable food systems and teaches Culinary Arts at Edmonds Community College. He is a steadfast advocate and volunteer for Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST). He lives in the Capitol Hill neighborhood with his husband, Michael.

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