Hundreds join to spread the message: Approve R-74
by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
On Saturday, October 6, at least 250 people took to the streets of Seattle in an effort to raise awareness of Washington's marriage equality battle and the campaign to Approve Referendum 74. The march, with rallies before and afterward, was sponsored by Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), a new Seattle-based coalition of LGBTQ and allied persons working to identify and fix social inequities in Seattle and beyond. Participants marched down Pine Street from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle, chanting 'Gay, straight, black, white, we deserve equal rights!'
'Visibility is always something that the LGBTQ community should be mindful of,' said Shaun Knittel, SOSea's founder and director. 'Especially now, more than ever, it is important that people see us coming together as a community with our allies to remind everyone that we deserve the freedom to marry.'
The march began at Cal Anderson Park, where State Sen. Ed Murray and State Rep. Jamie Pedersen lent their voices to the cause. The two have been at the political forefront of Washington's marriage fight for years and are the primary elected officials responsible for making same-sex marriage a real possibility in Washington. Both officials have long-term partners whom they hope to marry after November's election.
'Today's march is important,' said Murray, 'because it comes at a historic time.'
CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS
Murray encouraged those in attendance to volunteer for Washington United for Marriage, the coalition working to Approve Referendum 74. The campaign is always in need of more people to phone-bank and ring doorbells.
'The fact that you guys are here says something. It says you're proud to be you, you're proud to be who you are,' said Ryan Crawford, SOSea's co-director. Crawford said he wants the freedom to marry whenever he decides to do so, and he spoke on why domestic partnerships and civil unions 'are not equal and not enough.'
Knittel said many straight allies were also in attendance at the march.
Emcees Gaysha Starr and Aleksa Manila, two well-known Seattle drag entertainers, and star Seattle drag king Ceasar Hart led the march, alongside a group of queens in wedding dresses including Robbie Turner and Jinkx Monsoon. Together they sang 'Chapel of Love' as the masses took to the streets with a host of Approve R-74 campaign signs, both official and homemade.
'What makes our LGBTQ community so diverse is that it is composed of so many different kinds of people. While we fight for our civil rights we must be all inclusive to one another,' said Gaysha Starr. 'Drag queens and kings, Transgendered, leather, are just some of the most visual members, and to put some of them in the forefront reminds everyone of our rich history and composition.'
NO NEGATIVE INCIDENTS
'I was deliberate in my description of what the March for Marriage would look like,' said Knittel. 'SOSea told participants to think of it as a Pride parade without the floats - meaning colorful, fun, a good community vibe, and absolutely no violence. We were successful in achieving that. Despite the large crowd on hand, there was not one single incident.'
'I think it's great,' said Leigh, an onlooker and Capitol Hill business owner. 'There's been so many marches on the Hill lately. Our city's turning back into a protest city.'
Another onlooker, Abbas, called the march 'necessary' and said that before the march came by, he had 'no idea' same-sex marriage was even up for a vote.
The march came to an end at Westlake Park in Downtown Seattle, where a speakout was held. To launch the speakout, a number of drag queens in wedding dresses threw bouquets into the audience. Chase Silva, Seattle Out & Proud's reigning Pride Idol, lent his voice to the cause, singing Sam Cooke's song 'A Change is Gonna Come,' prompting shoppers and other passersby to stop and listen to his soulful voice and message of equality.
MAMA WAS THERE
Mama Tits, also known as Brian Daniel Peters, a well-known Seattle drag entertainer, spoke on the importance of knowing our history.
'Back in 1969 at a little bar named Stonewall some drag queens threw some bricks at the police,' said Mama. She went on to say how grateful she is that we don't have to resort to violence anymore in our movement for equality, but said that the peaceful march was nonetheless a continuation of that same fight.
Josh Friedes, who served as campaign manager for Washington's successful Approve Referendum 71 campaign, which reaffirmed Washington's domestic partnership law in 2009, offered ideas on how to spread the word about Approving Referendum 74, and he also echoed the call for more volunteers. Friedes asked people to post a few times a week on their Facebook pages, mention the campaign to their friends regularly, and encourage their friends to do the same.
'[It] is not the end if we achieve marriage equality,' said Friedes. 'It is only the beginning to work on a host of other issues.'
VETERAN ACTIVISTS SPEAK
Legendary Seattle activists Marsha Botzer (founder of the Ingersoll Gender Center) and George Bakan (editor of SGN) also lent their voices to the march.
'We here today are not pledged to any creed but justice,' said Botzer. 'Think of all those who fought for justice, known and unknown,' she added, citing the importance of fighting not just for ourselves and future generations, but to honor those who came before us. Bakan echoed these sentiments, lending his expert view of Seattle's grassroots Gay rights history. For decades, both Botzer and Bakan have been on the streets and in organizing meetings, fighting for many of the rights we enjoy today - and rights we've still yet to receive.
Other speakers included the Rev. Brandon Duran of Plymouth Congregational Church, Elena Pérez of UFCW 21, SOSea members Daniel Hanks and Sarah Toce, and many others.
'I have been fortunate to have many experiences being a drag queen for almost 20 years, but co-hosting last Saturday's rally and holding the banner down Pine Street reminded me of my civic duty to give back to our community,' Starr told SGN.
'People came up to SOSea members after the march and rally to thank us, especially the youth. This was a free and all-ages event. These kids cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a meal at a fundraiser or bid on a thousand-dollar item in a silent auction. SOSea officials agreed that, historically, marches and rallies are well-attended by young adults. It is a wonderful way for them to remain informed about the issues, engaged by the movement, and puts a visible face on just how diverse the LGBTQ community is,' said Knittel.
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