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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 10, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 50
ERW lifts a glass at Toasting Equality 2010
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ERW lifts a glass at Toasting Equality 2010

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Equal Rights Washington (ERW) hosted LGBT community leaders and supporters at the Downtown Seattle Hilton on December 9 for their second annual 'Toasting Equality' breakfast. The event, attended by politicians, various non-profit executive directors, activists, and community volunteers, proved to be an exciting breakfast and conversation with state and national leaders as they announced the launch of an education campaign to achieve marriage equality in Washington state.

Toasting Equality 2010 was a twofold event. First, the community breakfast served as a champagne toast for Laurie Jinkins, who made history by becoming Washington state's first out Lesbian elected to the Washington State Legislature. Laurie is a tireless advocate for healthcare, education and civil rights. She will represent the 27th legislative district, Tacoma. Secondly, the program featured a panel of guest speakers, including State Senator Ed Murray, longtime leader in the LGBT civil rights movement and chair of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee; Marty Rouse, national field director of the Human Rights Campaign; and Josh Friedes, current executive director of ERW, who served as the campaign manager for the successful 2009 Approve 71 campaign.

Dr. Shilpen Patel, ERW education fund board co-chair, welcomed attendees as they settled into the hour-long talk about how community leaders intend to write the next chapter in LGBT civil rights history.

LGBT Seattle icon Anne Levinson led the audience in a cheerful and rousing toast to Laurie Jenkins (State Rep Elect, 27th District).

With ERW's internal polling on marriage equality for the first time showing voters evenly divided, and many other voters undecided, the organization announced an important public education campaign to build a marriage equality majority. According to Friedes, with an equality-minded governor and Legislature and increasingly supportive public, it's time for us to move forward.

Both Friedes and Murray did not rule out the possibility that, eventually, the community may propose a proactive initiative by going directly to voters and bypassing the legislature. The conversation was embryonic, as nothing was cemented as what would, in fact, be the strategy moving forward.

The polling information provided by the attendees showed supportive numbers for same-sex marriage in Washington state. According to ERW's internal Washington Poll 2010, 42% say Gay and Lesbian couples should have the same legal right to marry as straight couples; 24% say Gay and Lesbian couples should have the same legal rights as straight couples but it should not be called marriage; 14% said there should be domestic partnerships that give Gay and Lesbian couples only some of the benefits and protections or marriage; and 20% said there should be no legal recognition of Gay and Lesbian couples. According to the Allison Peters Poll 2010, 46% say yes to marriage equality; 46% said no to same-sex marriage; and 8% were undecided.

Friedes and Sen. Murray discussed the launch of an up to 18-month education campaign about same-sex marriage in Washington state. Friedes clarified that it remains to be seen if marriage equality would be realized through legislation or a judicial victory. Either way, he said, the important thing is that LGBT persons engage their friends, family, and co-workers in meaningful discussion around the topic. ERW is not going to focus on converting marriage equality detractors, he said. Instead, the education campaign will focus on supporters.

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