Monday, February 13, 2012

Gov. Gregoire Signs Marriage Equality Legislation

Above: After the bill signing, Representative Jaime Pederson, left, and Senator Ed Murray celebrate as they are handed two pens used by Governor Chris Gregoire to sign the marriage equality bill into law today.

by Janine Unsoeld

Valentine's Day came early for marriage equality supporters as Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire today signed historic marriage equality legislation.

Hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender activists and their allies, some representing business, faith, and labor groups, filled the Capitol Building to witness the event.

As Gregoire spoke, the crowd often interrupted with claps and chants of 'thank you' and 'four more years.' She focused her comments on the celebration today, and not the legislation's legal challenges ahead.

“As governor for more than seven years, this is one of my proudest moments,” Gregoire said before the bill signing. “And most surely today is a proud day in the history of the Legislature and the state of Washington. It is a day historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights. A day when we did what was right, we did what was just, and we did what was fair. We stood up for equality and we did it together – Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, young and old, and a variety of religious faiths. I’m proud of who and what we are in this state.”

“I’m proud that our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal,” Gregoire said. “They will be equal. I’m proud that children in our schools and neighborhoods will not have to wonder why their loving parents are considered different than other loving parents. I’m proud of parents who have fought so fiercely for the rights of their much-loved gay and lesbian children. And I’m proud that children who discover they are gay and lesbian can feel good about themselves.”

Washington now joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York plus the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex marriages.

Above: Governor Chris Gregoire signs marriage equality legislation today.

Above: Representative Jaime Pederson, left, and his partner Eric scramble to collect their four sons for a photo opportunity with Governor Gregoire. In his comments prior to the bill signing, Pederson said, "Years later, our kids will look back and ask what all the fuss was about...."

"Our Stories Are Our Power" - A continuing series of stories and profiles of GLBT community members, advocates and allies

Above: Regional ecumenical leaders gather for a photo opportunity before the bill signing. The Reverend Nigel Taber-Hamilton, left, represents the Episcopal Church of Western Washington, that includes the Diocese of Olympia. He is a participant of the Faith Action Network (FAN), which is organizing Interfaith Advocacy Day on February 14 at United Churches of Olympia, 110 11th Ave. SE, Olympia. For more information, go to

Above: John McCluskey, standing, and Rudy Henry, of Tacoma, have been partners for 53 years. "It's been a really long engagement," joked McCluskey. 'A piece of paper isn't going to change much (for us), but we've been waiting a long time. I never thought this day would come in my lifetime. Today is a great, historic day....'" said McCluskey.

Above: After the official bill signing, Governor Chris Gregoire signed Pride flags for Olympia GLBT activists Anna Schlect, left, Matthew Shrader, and Naki Stevens. Shrader, a student at South Puget Sound Community College, is co-chair of Capital City Pride 2012.

Above: Members of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), including GSBA executive director Louise Chernin, left, were excited to witness the bill signing. "It's a great's amazing to be a part of history," said Chernin. "Everyone benefits when everyone wins....Of course this is a great opportunity for weddings, but it goes deeper than that. It's going to impact the economy in so many ways - there will be a ripple effect. Everyone's going to have a chance to grow their business."

Above: Lacey residents Lynn Grotsky, left, and Lisa Brodoff have been partners for 31 years. Grotsky, a social worker and counselor in general practice, and Brodoff, a law professor at Seattle University School of Law and one of The Righteous Mothers, the musical group, were litigants in the first "out" second-parent adoption case in Washington State. Their battle in the late 1980's was among the first such cases in the nation. "It took two years but we won," said Brodoff. The couple have two children, a daughter, Evan, 25, and a son, Micha, 22. "Now they can both walk us down the aisle!" cheered Brodoff.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Our Stories Are Our Power" - The Story of Representative Sam Hunt

Above: GLBT activist and leader Anna Schlect welcomes Representative Sam Hunt (D-22, Olympia) to the microphone at last night's event celebrating the House passage of Washington State's marriage equality legislation earlier that day.

by Janine Unsoeld

"Our Stories Are Our Power" - The Story of Representative Sam Hunt

While celebrating the House passage of Washington State's marriage equality legislation yesterday, Washington State Representative Sam Hunt (D-22, Olympia) explained that when he first wrote out his floor speech, he used pseudonyms for all his GLBT friends because he didn't know how "out" they were.

"But when I contacted them, they said 'no, please use my name.' It was an honor...."

Below is a transcript of the floor speech given by Representative Sam Hunt (D-22,Olympia) prior to the House vote which resulted in the passage of the marriage equality legislation yesterday afternoon:

For years, my children and their friends gathered at our house on weekend evenings to watch movies, play video games, share friendship, and empty all of the soft drinks from the refrigerator.

Any given night would find 10 to 20 young people in this safe environment -- my wife and I were glad to have them in our home.

As it turns out, several of these young people are gay or lesbian.

I stumbled onto this realization when I would say things like, “Hillary, I think you should go out with Lars,” and was greeted by “Dad, don’t you know Lars is gay?”

Or, “Why don’t you and Mike go out?” and she said, “Uh Dad, I don’t think so.”

When I said Nathan and Katie would make a good couple, the response was, “Dad, that just would not work.” My children were educating me.

Each and every one of these young people is outstanding and welcome in our home any time. And they do visit.

One worked on Broadway before returning to Olympia to start a business; Lars was high school valedictorian who went to the Air Force Academy, served in the Air Force, worked in Congress, and now is at the US State Department.

Another is an investment manager in Seattle.

There are partners, families, and each one contributes to his/her community.

The vote I will take to legalize same sex marriage is for them and for those young adults who are my friends and my children’s friends—those kids who lived in my basement and drank all my Pepsi.

This issue bothers them a lot less than it bothers my generation. They don’t know what the big fuss is about.

They have asked me to take this vote.

My two children have asked me to take this vote.

My wife of 41 years asked me to take this vote.

And my 91 year-old mother asked me to take this vote.

I’m voting YES today on SB 6239 for these young adults—gay and straight—who called our house home on so many evenings.

I’m voting yes for our many GLBT friends and family (Anna, Jeff, Marilyn, Anne, Alec, Gabi) in Olympia and Washington State who deserve the equality and respect this bill provides. And, yes, Cal Anderson, this vote is for you!

I have no doubt it is the right thing to do.

To my basement dwellers, this is for you—our future leaders.

Look for future articles in what will be a series of GLBTQ related stories by Janine Unsoeld under the title: "Our Stories Are Our Power."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Our Stories Are Our Power"

Above: Washington State Representative Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma speaks tonight at a celebration party in Olympia about today's passage of marriage equality legislation.

"Our Stories Are Our Power"

by Janine Unsoeld

A cautious celebration party was held tonight in Olympia with the news that marriage equality legislation passed the House today in Washington State with a 55-43 vote.

Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire today issued a statement on the approval of the marriage equality legislation.

“This is truly a historic day in Washington state, and one where I couldn’t be more proud. With today’s vote, we tell the nation that Washington state will no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love. We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state. And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“I commend our House members and thank Rep. Jamie Pedersen for sponsoring this bill. Our legislators showed courage, respect, and professionalism. I look forward to signing this piece of legislation, and putting into law an end to an era of discrimination.”

A source tonight said that Governor Gregoire is expected to sign the legislation on Valentine's Day.

Supporters gathered at the Urban Onion restaurant tonight to celebrate, but also warn that the fight for equality is not over. Washington State, seventh in the nation to approve marriage equality, will be the first in the nation whose legislation will be subjected to a referendum. The referendum will face voters in November.

Several elected officials addressed the crowd, including Representative Sam Hunt (D-22, Olympia), Senator Karen Fraser (D-22, Olympia), and Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-27,Tacoma), Washington State's first openly lesbian legislator.

"It's just incredible what we've done here today - but it will cost. It will cost us more time, more money, and take more time away from our families...we need to be prepared to give all that we can give, and then give some more. It's going to be something we've never seen before. Do not become complacent. Start organizing now. Enjoy tonight, remember how this feels, and how much we want to keep it," said Jinkins, her voice cracking with emotion.

Other speakers were equally strong, but subdued.

"Today we closed a chapter in our work...we have a lot of work to do. This victory is not secure, but we know how to win....Our stories are our power," said Josh Friedas, Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington.

Friedas suggested several methods to reach undecided voters, including letters to the editor and the use of social media. He also stated that it will take a minimum of between $5-10 million to carry the message to voters. '"However, there is no price tag on equality,"' he said.

Above: Senator Karen Fraser voted yes for the Senate version of the bill, which passed 28 - 21 last Wednesday evening.

"We're making news around the world. Through civil discourse, we're promoting democracy by doing this respectfully. Since the vote, I don't know when I've gotten so many thank you's, from people I've never met or heard from before...." said Senator Fraser.

Above: Maria Trevizo speaks to the crowd of marriage equality supporters tonight.

Maria Trevizo of Olympia also addressed the group and credited her activism against discrimination to her brother Tony, who worked with San Francisco's first openly gay elected official Harvey Milk. She held up a picture originally published in the San Fransisco Chronicle of her and her brother at the 1978 Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco. After the picture was published, she was demoted within 48 hours from her job as a supervisor at a state hospital. She fought for reinstatement for one and a half years. "I learned to like generic cereal with hot water and peanut butter," Trevizo remembered.

Trevizo, a local wellness education specialist and a member of the Ysleta Pueblo del Sur Nation of Texas, married her partner Laurie Meeker ceremonially 13 years ago. From the stage, she asked Meeker to marry her civilly. Meeker accepted, and they kissed as Trevizo sat down to her seat.

Look for future articles in what will be a series of GLBTQ related stories by Janine Gates Unsoeld under the title: "Our Stories Are Our Power."