by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Equal Rights Washington (ERW) announced this week that their Fifth Annual Gala Dinner & Auction on May 7 was their biggest event ever, bringing in over $130,000 from a sold-out, 300-person crowd at the W Hotel in downtown Seattle.
ERW officials say the community can rest assured that the donation dollars are put to work to make laws 'that affect our community more fair.'
'The outpouring of support and participation by so many - from sponsors and contributors to LGBT community and political leaders - truly reflects how far we've come as an organization, both within the LGBT community and the eyes of the public at large,' said Thomas Pitchford, ERW development and outreach director. 'This is the fifth anniversary for this event, and for that reason is a milestone in its own right, but beyond that, the event also reached new heights in so many ways - from dollars raised to such extensive involvement from peer organizations and community leaders - this goes beyond the usual time milestone in terms of its significance.'
This legislative session, ERW worked on the passage of three major LGBT civil rights bills.
'While the out-of-state marriage recognition bill is very straightforward, the anti-bullying bill and the Uniform Parentage Act will take a great deal of work to make sure they are implemented correctly,' said Josh Friedes, executive director for ERW. 'The legislature is now in special session and we are working with our legislative leaders to make sure that there is appropriate funding for HIV/AIDS services and prevention, youth suicide prevention, and many other budget items important to the LGBT community.'
Freides said that now that the regular session is over, ERW will ramp up its marriage education work.
'We are pleased to report that during the regular session, ERW advocates sent over 10,000 emails to our elected officials in support of marriage equality. ERW will be at pride festivals all around the state collecting marriage equality postcards and collecting stories. A big push for us this year will be to ask people to become fans of ERW on Facebook. It's amazing how Facebook is exploding as an advocacy tool.'
Another issue they are working on along with their partners is to ensure that the City of Seattle provides appropriate healthcare coverage to city employees.
'The city seems very supportive of this idea,' said Friedes. 'The problem is that most insurance policies have exclusions. We can all be good advocates by focusing attention on the need for insurance policies to cover the health needs of Transgender people.'
At the national level, he said ERW would work with their national partners.
'Immigration reform offers an opportunity to help both LGBT individuals and families and others who face unjust treatment,' said Friedes.
'We are so incredibly lucky to have the support of so many in our community.'
ERW officials would like to thank Maryanne Tagney-Jones and David Jones, Margaret Rothschild and George Heidorn, Wrenn Law Group, Legacy Creations, and their newest major donor, Bob Eichler. They are proud to have their first major corporate sponsor in Puget Sound Energy, and look forward to some great opportunities to see that relationship continue to grow. The labor community played a huge role in this year's event, and ERW would like to thank SEIU 775NW, Washington Federation of State Employees AFSCME, Teamsters Local 117, Joint Council of Teamsters Local 28, SEIU 1199 NW, and their friends at Northwest Stage and Sound, also proud members of IATSE.
'We must also thank our amazing community partners for their support - Pride Foundation, GSBA, and HRC-Seattle,' said Friedes. 'Finally, there are so many political leaders we need to thank, too many to name here, but some important folks we must recognize for their involvement include Senator Patty Murray, Congressman Jim McDermott, Senator Ed Murray, Reps. Jim Moeller, Laurie Jinkins, and Jamie Pedersen, King County Councilmembers Joe McDermott and Larry Phillips, King County Assessor Lloyd Hara, and Seattle City Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen, Tim Burgess, Sally Clark, and Sally Bagshaw. Thank you to these and so many others who joined us or supported this event in any way.'
'The success of this event is a reflection of our dedication to the Washington LGBT community,' Friedes said. 'We will continue to work hard for the LGBT community and are both humbled and excited to have such tremendous support.'
ERW is a statewide political advocacy organization for the LGBT community of Washington state. ERW has successfully advocated for the Anderson Murray Anti-Discrimination law, the creation of the domestic partnership registry, the further expansion of domestic partnership protections, and the passage of the Healthy Youth Act. ERW works to organize the movement for equality, educate voters, and influence policy makers. We continue to advocate for the expansion of protections available to committed Gay couples and their children while working toward marriage equality. We also work to ensure that healthcare providers meet the needs of an aging LGBT community.
For more information, visit ERW online at www.equalrightswashington.org.
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