by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
On December 9, hundreds of community members joined Equal Rights Washington (ERW) officials, elected officials, and marriage equality advocates for the ERW Toasting Equality event - a breakfast, toast for same-sex marriage equality in Washington state for 2012, and fundraising effort for the ERW Education Fund.
According to ERW officials, the event raised over $57,000.
The Education Fund's mission is to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Washington state. The Education Fund, a nonprofit organization, seeks to do so by facilitating and coordinating the efforts of the LGBT and allied community that are directed to research, education, and community mobilization. It is the educational sister organization to Equal Rights Washington.
ERW is a founding member of Washington United for Marriage, a coalition of organizations, congregations, unions, and business associations working together to secure civil marriage in Washington state in 2012.
'The general theme of the breakfast was that we need to be focused like a laser on building support for marriage equality and we must be prepared to work, now and in the years to come, on the issues that affect our diverse community, including aging, AIDS/HIV, Transgender rights, safe schools, and LGBT homelessness,' ERW officials told their supporters in an email following the event.
At the breakfast, pollster Alison Peters provided analysis of research she has done in regards to same-sex marriage support in Washington state. She told Toasting Equality attendees that support for marriage is growing and consistent, but many supporters of marriage equality are not yet strong supporters. She also said support for marriage increases when people talk to people they know about marriage equality, and while many marriage equality supporters are being asked to take action in support of marriage equality, most are not.
'We all have to be asking our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to get engaged in our work,' said ERW officials. 'So whether you are a member of the LGBT or allied community, tell your story about why marriage equality matters to you and how it can protect our families. The Education Fund helps amplify the voices of marriage equality supporters who have powerful stories to tell.'
Marcos Martinez, the executive director of Entre Hermanos, moderated the panel, which included State Senator Ed Murray; Thalia Zepatos, director of engagement for Freedom to Marry; Josh Friedes, marriage equality director of Equal Rights Washington; and Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage.
'Entre Hermanos and the ERW Education Fund will collaborate on a project funded by the Social Justice Fund that will engage Latinos,' officials said. 'The purpose of the grant is both to build support for marriage equality in the Latino community while increasing the capacity of Entre Hermanos to do advocacy work on a host of issues important to the LGBT Latino community.'
The Social Justice Fund will provide $20,000 in 2012 to support this work.
In addition, ERW announced the Education Fund has also received two grants from the Pride Foundation to continue its collaboration with faith communities to build support for marriage equality.
'To our sponsors, table captains, and hosts, the chorus Diverse Harmony, our speakers and volunteers, we can't thank you enough. The generosity of attendees was clear as you rose to the challenge match issued by Bob Eichler and together raised $30,000,' said officials.
Equal Rights Washington 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. They continue to advocate for the expansion of protections available to committed Gay couples and their children while working toward marriage equality. They also work to ensure that health care providers meet the needs of an aging LGBT community.
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