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."