Pride Foundation is 'all in' for marriage and looks at the big picture
by Kris Hermanns -
Special to the SGN
Annie Van Avery knew at age five that her family was different when her parents explained that Dad was looking for his prince, a subtle way of telling Annie her Dad was coming out. Her mother would also come out to her as a Lesbian while Annie was in college, as would her sister. So it's no surprise that the South Seattle mother of two is helping to Approve Referendum 74 in November.
'I grew up seeing in the media and hearing from others that our family was not a valid family,' reflects Annie on her early days growing up in Minneapolis. 'Especially now that I have kids, it's really important to me that they grow up knowing that there are so many different kinds of families and that a loving family structure should not be illegal - that we define love as what makes a family.'
Annie, a Pride Foundation supporter and executive director of Photo Center NW, is one of a growing chorus of active allies who are working to support the freedom to marry in Washington. She recently attended a house party where guests committed to speaking with at least five people to share why marriage matters to them. Though she admits to knowing very few people who oppose the freedom to marry, she learned at the event that being supportive of marriage equality may not translate into votes because, without a personal touch and shared conversations, supportive people may not see voting as a priority.
It's estimated that two out of three people who have had a conversation about marriage for same-sex couples are supportive. So if we don't have these conversations - even with people who know and love us - we miss out on strengthening our relationships with our allies.
And, perhaps, miss out on making history come November.
Pride Foundation's work is always about starting conversations just like the ones Annie will be having. We talk to donors about what dreams they have for our community. We talk to scholars about what impact they hope to achieve. We talk to nonprofit leaders about their innovative ideas for meeting the needs of some of our community's most marginalized members. Together these conversations transform our community.
We've seen this transformation build momentum with recent national progress, including the historic support for marriage equality by a sitting U.S. president, the landmark Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling recognizing the rights of Transgender workers, and the dismantling of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Together we can help this momentum continue into November and beyond.
I've been asked by a few people why Pride Foundation is so heavily invested in the campaign for the freedom to marry. (Pride Foundation is a founding member of Washington United for Marriage.) The simple answer is our supporters, staff, and friends wouldn't have it any other way - creating and defending LGBTQ equality is what we do and who we are.
The more complex answer of how marriage fits into the bigger LGBTQ equality picture would require a full afternoon with a giant carafe of coffee - which I would welcome.
We know we need to do more and make more progress toward protecting LGBTQ employees, empowering our youth, and supporting our seniors. We need to do more about LGBTQ health, immigration, and domestic violence. We need to have more conversations within our community about race, class, gender, and gender identity and expression.
At this moment, marriage for same-sex couples is the most significant conversation that the nation is having about equality for LGBTQ people. Leveraging the momentum, the money, and the people who care about marriage is one key role we have to play, but equally important is carrying that momentum onward to build a stronger LGBTQ community throughout the Northwest by addressing the myriad of issues faced by our evolving and diverse community.
A DIVERSE MOVEMENT
Washington United for Marriage's effort includes partnering with communities of faith, people of color, and diverse families to support these communities in talking about why marriage matters to them. I hope that you see yourself as a part of this important work.
Phone banks, happy hours, workshops, coffee talks, town halls, rallies, and house parties are taking place in every corner of the state, powered by everyday people who believe in LGBTQ equality, working to ignite a movement that will Approve Referendum 74.
At the end of September, more than 100 supportive clergy will join in a groundbreaking gathering at First United Methodist Church in Seattle to strategize how best to support the freedom to marry. Workshops and trainings are taking place with people of faith all over the state and more than 80 faith communities, and more than 100 leaders and organizations representing communities of color have officially endorsed the campaign.
Our work with all these communities has led to the sharing of powerful stories from straight allies, community leaders, and, of course, members of our LGBTQ community. Some of these stories can be read (and watched) at www.washingtonunitedformarriage.org.
There's more to Annie's story after her parents divorced. There's more to what motivates her.
When Annie's mom and her partner of 15 years held their commitment ceremony, they were concerned that family members might disapprove of the union. So they made the hard decision to have a closed ceremony, without family in attendance.
'My sister and I would have loved to celebrate that milestone with them,' Annie laments. 'It's heartbreaking to my sister and I that they felt they needed to do that alone - I would love to see a date and time where we can have that celebration with them at their marriage.'
To help Approve Referendum 74, visit www.washingtonunitedformarriage.org. For information about Pride Foundation's community leadership, grants, and scholarships in the Northwest, visit www.pridefoundation.org.
Kris Hermanns is the executive director of Pride Foundation.
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