by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
On November 13, community members from a cross-section of the Washington state LGBTQ and Allied communities attended a Communities of Color Approve R-74 celebration at Washington Hall (153 14th Ave.).
The event was a collaboration between the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Western States Center as a way to say 'thank you' for the tireless efforts of community members in preserving Washington's Marriage Equality Law, which voters affirmed November 6.
'To everyone who gave a dollar, knocked on a door, called voters, talked to strangers and friends, donated food, put up a yard sign, signed an op-ed or letter to the editor, and talked about why we needed to keep moving forward on so many fronts, let's celebrate,' read the invite. 'Justice, love, and equality prevail!'
Organizations present at the celebration included Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), Entre Hermanos, Why Marriage Matters Washington, and many others. Catering was provided by Marination Station and music by Diego Coy.
Washington United for Marriage, the coalition that successfully defended the freedom to marry at the ballot box, reported that nearly 200 organizations and individuals from Communities of Color statewide endorsed the campaign. The broad support came from civic and tribal leaders, elected officials, and groups representing Asian/Pacific American, Latino, African American, and Native American communities that focus on issues such as immigrant advocacy, sexual and domestic violence, human trafficking, LGBT Latino health, and civil rights advocacy for people of color.
Among the endorsers were the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, a statewide network of community organizations; Entre Hermanos, an organization serving Seattle's Latino LGBT community; the Latino Community Fund of Washington, the leading philanthropic organization for Latinos in Washington; the League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation's oldest Latino civil rights organization; One America Votes, the state's largest immigrant rights organization; the Organization of Chinese Americans of Greater Seattle; the Suquamish Tribe; and the Black Collective, a volunteer leadership organization which addresses issues impacting the African American community of Tacoma and Pierce County.
'With this historic election, there can be no denying that this is a watershed moment for Gay and Lesbian families in America,' said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Project when it was confirmed that voters had approved R-74. 'Not long ago, marriage for same-sex couples was unimaginable. In a remarkably short time, we have seen courts start to rule in favor of the freedom to marry, then legislatures affirm it, and now the people vote for it as well. Today's election illustrates both the astonishing pace of change on this issue as well as America's commitment to fairness for everyone.'
ACLU A TRAILBLAZER
The ACLU founded the LGBT Project in 1986 and was an early endorser of same-sex marriage in Washington State.
'Everyone in America deserves equal treatment under the law regardless of sexual orientation, including the right to marry the partner of your choice,' ACLU officials said in a message posted on their website, www.aclu-wa.org. 'The ACLU works for equal rights and legal protections against discrimination and harassment of LGBT people.'
'The ACLU of Washington would like to thank all of the amazing volunteers who have made the campaign to Approve Referendum 74 one of the largest efforts our state has ever seen,' said Dean Jackson, outreach coordinator for ACLU of Washington. 'Hundreds of volunteers have spent thousands of hours making phone calls, knocking on doors, and talking to voters to secure the freedom to marry for Gay and Lesbian couples in the state. From dropping off homemade blueberry pie at phone banks to speaking on Spanish-language radio shows, our community has shown up in countless (and often thankless) ways as the backbone of this campaign.
'On November 1, more than 50 people came out to call Communities of Color. This included 15 volunteers who made calls in Spanish, allowing voters to speak about this issue in their home language. Over the course of two hours more than 2,000 calls were made - that's around 40 per person! On November 3, the same group knocked on 245 doors in 3 hours.
'On Election Day,' continued Jackson, 'we can all be proud of the commitment, dedication, and hard work so many have made for marriage equality.'
MY PERSONAL STORY
I was fortunate to be a part of the ACLU of Washington collaborative with Why Marriage Matters Washington and the Washington United for Marriage Communities of Color Endorse R-74 campaign. Although I am a white male, my husband, Yee-Shin Huang, is a member of the Asian/Pacific Islander (API) community; we represented mix-race couples.
Yee-Shin and I were featured on the campaign's website, in which I was quoted, 'It is very difficult and exhausting explaining what 'partner' means. Everyone understands marriage. We call each other husbands because that is what we are to each other. We want to make sure that for the rest of our life together, we can take care of each other. When you love somebody, what you want more than anything is to protect them, especially in times of need.'
We were happy to join the chorus of voices coming from the Communities of Color, calling for marriage equality.
MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
Also a part of the campaign, Darrell and Marshan Goodwin-Moultry met at the United Church of Christ in San Francisco, where they were both visiting pastors. According to the two men, their relationship was blessed from the beginning. 'We spent a lot of time together and it soon became clear that God had put a work in motion. A wonderful friendship was quickly becoming more. It was amazing to see God's hand at work through the whole process and to still see his hand guiding us daily.' The two married in New York and now co-pastor Liberation UCC in Seattle.
Both their families are supportive of their relationship. 'Some people have a hard time with it. We were brought up differently. In my conversations with Darrell I have learned a lot. Life is a journey for all of us,' says Darrell's grandmother, Roberta. 'I love him. If he is happy, I am happy. The boys are both in church, both ministers. They can support each other. Our family will always be there for each other. What's important is that we stay together as a family.'
Darrell states, 'The ability to marry legally in Washington would give validity to our relationship that doesn't come with a domestic partnership. We are husbands. We live in this state. It is our home. We want the pride of saying we are married at home. We want to know that we can be together when it matters the most. Marshan is diabetic. If anything happened to him, I could say we were legally married in New York, but that doesn't give me access to his medical records, access to him. Not knowing if I could have access to him as his spouse makes me feel like I'd be unable to care for him when he needs me the most. That's a reality.'
WANTED MARRIAGE OPTION
Kamala Saxton and Roz Edison are the owners of the popular food truck Marination Mobile, and its two brick-and-mortar complements, Marination Station (Capitol Hill) and Marination ma kai (West Seattle). They have been together nearly nine years. The couple advocated for marriage equality because they want to know they can, should they choose to, formalize their relationship in a manner that would be respected in the same way as relationships of their heterosexual friends and family.
'We want legal marriage to be an option for us. Right now we are unquestionably partners, but that term is ambiguous, especially because we co-own a business together. Legalizing marriage for Gay and Lesbian couples will allow the same freedom and rights as heterosexual couples. Without this right, we are being denied a choice that many of our friends and family have. We want a choice of whether or not we get married. It would mean a legal status, as a spouse, that is not up for interpretation,' said Kamala.
The November 13 Communities of Color Approve R-74 celebration was a wonderful way to observe and honor the couples, individuals, and organizations that put in the necessary and hard work to help ensure that the freedom to marry came to Washington. In the end, love prevailed over hate and that was, essentially, the message of the night at this event.
Seattle Gay News has a long and proud history of working with Communities of Color, and its staff and publisher couldn't be prouder of the work these communities did to pass R-74. Congratulations all!
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