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Read the newest press releases in our news room and keep up to date on what is going on in Washington!

 

 

 

Press Release
Legal Marriage Alliance to Merge into Equal Rights Washington
LMA Led Marriage Education Efforts in Washington State for Over a Decade
For Immediate Release Contact Joshua Friedes 206-324-2570
May 14, 2008 Michael Taylor-Judd 206-324-2570

The board of the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington, the state’s largest Marriage Equality education organization announced that it would merge into Equal Rights Washington, the leading gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights group in Washington. The purpose of the integration is to leverage the power of Washington State’s freedom to marry movement.

“When the Legal Marriage Alliance formed in 1995, marriage equality seemed like an unattainable goal to many,” said Michael Taylor-Judd, president of the board of the LMA. “Our members worked hard to explain to the public why marriage equality was essential to the well being of Washington families headed by gay couples and convince the gay community that with hard work the freedom to marry could be achieved in our lifetime,” added Taylor-Judd.

“Times have changed,” said Taylor-Judd. “Today the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that they will live to see the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian Americans. Washington State is at the forefront in the struggle to end discrimination in the issuance of marriage licenses,” concluded Taylor-Judd.

“The Legal Marriage Alliance and Equal Rights Washington share a common philosophy about marriage equality education; we both believe that people telling personal stories to their friends, family, co-workers and neighbors is the key,” said Michael Wrenn co-chair of the ERW Board of Directors. “Everybody-- gay and straight-- has a personal story to tell that helps illustrate the importance of marriage equality. Now we’ll have greater resources to encourage the public and lawmakers to explore the issue through real life experiences,” said Wrenn.

“The Legal Marriage Alliance developed outstanding educational tools over the past decade that empower people to share their stories and help explain the over one thousand legal protections associated with civil marriage,” said Thomas Zambito co-chair of the Equal Rights Washington Board. “We’ll be asking Equal Rights Washington’s 20,000 advocates statewide to share these materials with their friends, family and legislators,” said Zambito.

“The time seemed just perfect for the integration of the all-volunteer Legal Marriage Alliance with Equal Rights Washington,” said Connie Watts, Executive Director of ERW. “With the passage of the gay civil rights bill in 2006, the domestic partnership registry in 2007, and the domestic partnership expansion bill in 2008, it’s time to dramatically increase statewide advocacy in support of marriage equality. With this integration, we’re looking forward to expanding the reach of many of LMA’s educational programs like their ubiquitous ‘I DO: Support Marriage Equality’ bumper stickers, their speakers bureau and educational web resources,” said Watts.

# # #


Read Connie Watts' statement on the historic marriage decision in California.


Opponents of Pierce County’s Domestic Partnership Ordinance Fail to Turn in Enough Signatures to Qualify a Ballot Measure to Repeal the Law

Pierce County Voters Prove Yet Again They Support Fair Treatment of All Families

For Immediate Release

April 22, 2008

Contact:

Ryan Mello                       Josh Friedes

206-324-2570                 206-324-2570

                                        media@equalrightswashington.org

April 22, 2008, Tacoma, WA - Yesterday, a small group of ultra-conservative activists seeking to repeal Pierce County’s Domestic Partnership Ordinance failed to turn in the 25,361 valid signatures necessary to qualify the measure for the November 2008 ballot.

In December of 2007, the Pierce County Council passed Ordinance 2007-108, extending benefits to county employees’ domestic partners and eligible children. While the ordinance covers both gay and straight employees, these benefits are particularly important to gay and lesbian county workers who cannot secure basic rights for their partners through civil marriage. If successful, the signature gathering effort would have led to a ballot initiative aimed at preventing the families of gay county employees from being eligible for such basic benefits as health insurance.

“This is yet another sign that the citizens of Pierce County believe all families should be treated equally – that equal work should be compensated by equal pay and benefits, no matter who you are,” said John McCluskey, longtime Tacoma civil rights advocate. “The people of Pierce County are fair-minded and will not be conned by the scare tactics and false information spread by the radical right.”

The Pierce County Council did the right thing by passing the Pierce County Domestic Partnership Ordinance, thereby ensuring that all employees will receive the same pay and benefits for doing the same work. The voters have validated that decision overwhelmingly by refusing to sign petitions to overturn the measure.

The Pierce County Domestic Partnership Ordinance is very much in keeping with trends in Washington State supporting working families. At least seventeen other county and city governments in Washington have adopted similar measures, including King County, Thurston County, and the city of Tacoma, which recently granted similar benefits to city employees through contract negotiations. Same-sex couples presently can register as domestic partners with Washington State, and on March 12th Governor Chris Gregoire signed into law the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill, which provides registered domestic partners in Washington an additional 170 legal protections at the state level. Registered domestic partners in Washington State are now eligible to receive nearly 200 of the 1400 legal rights and responsibilities of marriage.

As healthcare costs soar, family healthcare benefits have become an increasingly large portion of employee compensation packages.

“This is simply the right thing to do – to treat all county employees equally,” said John Ladenburg, County Executive. “Not only is it the fair thing to do, it also makes good business sense. Employees can perform their jobs better knowing that their families are secure.” As testament to the fact that domestic partner benefits are a smart business move, over 600 Washington businesses, including more than half of Fortune 500 companies, have extended these critical health and other financial benefits to employees in domestic partnerships, including Amazon, Costco, Boeing, Starbucks, Weyerhaeuser, and many others.

The failure of the effort to overturn domestic partnership benefits proves that Pierce County voters are dedicated to ensuring that all families have the ability to be financially secure with access to affordable health care, pensions, and death benefits.

# # #


ERW Statements on ENDA

The non-inclusive version of ENDA (HR 3685) was passed by Congress Wednesday, November 7th. Read our statement on this bill's passage & our continuing commitment to achieving employment protections based on gender identity. Also see ERW's statement on the original filing of non-inclusive ENDA.


About ERW: Founded in 2004, Equal Rights Washington is a state-wide advocacy organization with a membership of over 25,000 gay and non-gay advocates whose mission is to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Washingtonians through education, lobbying and electoral work. You can learn more about ERW at www.equalrightswashington.org

 

Equal Rights Washington Praises Governor for Signing Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill into Law, and Calls for Full Marriage Equality  

 

For Immediate Release 

March 12, 2008                                   

Contact: Joshua Friedes

206-679-8546                                                               josh@equalrightswashington.org

Governor Chris Gregoire’s signing of the Domestic Partnership Expansion bill marks yet another step forward in the quest for full legal equality for gay and lesbian families. Equal Rights Washington (ERW) congratulates the Washington State Legislature for passing the Domestic Partnership Expansion bill by wide margins in both chambers.

ERW Executive Director Connie Watts expressed excitement about the new law: "We're thrilled that the legislature has taken this action to protect Washington’s vulnerable families, and especially thank the legislators in Olympia who helped to move this bill forward. We were glad to see that the floor debates were constructive and civil. Governor Gregoire has been a long time supporter of civil rights for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and we sincerely thank her for signing this historic measure into law.”

The Domestic Partnership Expansion bill provides Washington State’s gay couples with about 170 new rights and responsibilities previously unavailable to them. "We're very excited," says Jennine Devenuti from Tacoma, Washington. "This bill gives my family some of the basic protections we need.  It gives us peace of mind as we make plans for our family and as we age.”

ERW Advocacy Director Joshua Friedes praised the bill's passage: "We thank the legislature and the Governor for this significant step forward in protecting gay families. However, this legislation affords gay couples fewer than half of the rights that married couples take for granted at the state level, and no rights at all at the federal level. Even with this important new law, gay families in Washington State will only have about one-seventh of the legal rights their straight married friends and family take for granted every day. Hopefully, it won't be too long before we achieve marriage equality for Washington’s gay and lesbian headed families.”

Recent polls conducted by the University of Washington demonstrate that an increasing number of Washingtonians support equal rights for the gay community. In 2007, 73% expressed support for legal recognition of same-sex relationships, with 59% of state voters saying that same-sex couples deserve identical rights to those afforded to their straight peers. Support for full marriage equality had increased 17% from the previous year. (For more information, visit www.washingtonpoll.org)

About ERW: Founded in 2004, Equal Rights Washington is a state-wide advocacy organization with a membership of over 20,000 gay and non-gay advocates whose mission is to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Washingtonians through education, lobbying and electoral work. You can learn more about ERW at www.equalrightswashington.org

 

For Immediate Release                               Contact: Joshua Friedes

March 4, 2008                                               206-679-8546

                                                                        josh@equalrightswashington.org

 

Equal Rights Washington Applauds the Final Passage of the 2008 Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill

 

Bill Passes Senate 29-20 having already passed House 62-32

“Equal Rights Washington salutes the Washington State legislature for the final passage of the 2008 Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill.  In both the House and the Senate, the majority easily prevailed.  The legislature understands that Washington State voters want their gay and lesbian family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors to have the legal protections enjoyed by their heterosexual peers,” said Connie Watts, executive director of ERW.  

In a joint statement shared with Equal Rights Washington, Jane Lighty and Pete-e Petersen, both of whom testified in a committee hearing in the House about this legislation, said, “We are so proud of the Washington legislature in supporting this bill.  It shows that Washington State has taken a major step towards fairness and equality for all of its citizens.” 

“For Equal Rights Washington and our supporters, passage of this historic legislation is another important step towards full marriage equality.  Even with the addition of the rights obtained in this expansion legislation, same-sex couples in Washington State are still denied hundreds of rights at the state level, as well as over 1,000 federal benefits and obligations.  Equal Rights Washington will not rest until we achieve full marriage equality for all in the state of Washington,” said Connie Watts, executive director of ERW.  

 
As more and more gay and lesbian people tell their personal stories, the citizens of Washington are increasingly supporting full marriage equality. According to recent polls conducted by the University of Washington, support for marriage equality has increased by more than 17% over the last year. Fully 74% of Washington voters now support legal recognition of families headed by gay or lesbian couples. www.washingtonpoll.org

 

About ERW: Founded in 2004, Equal Rights Washington is a state-wide advocacy organization with a membership of over 20,000  gay and non-gay advocates whose mission is to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Washingtonians through education, lobbying and electoral work. You can learn more about ERW at www.equalrightswashington.org

# # #

 

For Immediate Release                               Contact: Joshua Friedes

February 15, 2008                                         206-679-8546

                                                                        josh@equalrightswashington.org

 

Statement of  Equal Rights Washington’s Executive Director Connie Watts On House Passage of the 2008 Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill by a Vote of  62-32.

We applaud the House for passing the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill by an overwhelming majority. The strong majority and the civil nature of the floor debate shows that the legislature recognizes that the people of Washington State want their gay and lesbian family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors to have the legal protections enjoyed by their heterosexual peers.  The bill now moves to the Senate where a majority of members are co-sponsors of the legislation. We are confident that the Governor, a longtime supporter of civil rights for all Washingtonians will sign the bill. However, it is important to remember that even when this bill becomes law gay and lesbian couples will only be afforded fewer than 200 of the 1400 legal protections enjoyed by legally married couples in Washington.

It is indeed symbolic that this vote comes as the 11th annual National Freedom to Marry Week comes to a close. Equal rights Washington and the prime sponsors of the Domestic partnership expansion bill have been clear and unequivocal in stating that we are seeking full marriage equality for families formed by gay and lesbian couples. This vote framed by Valentine’s Day and Presidents weekend is a perfect time to reflect on our nations struggle to ensure the legal equality of all its citizens. More and more Washingtonians recognize that allowing same sex couple the freedom to marry is an affirmation of the values of love commitment and mutual concern, the values all healthy families share.

About ERW: Founded in 2004, Equal Rights Washington is a state-wide advocacy organization with a membership of over 20,000  gay and non-gay advocates whose mission is to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Washingtonians through education, lobbying and electoral work. You can learn more about ERW at www.equalrightswashington.org

# # #

STATEMENT TO THE PRESS FROM EQUAL RIGHTS WASHINGTON

DATE:  January 29, 2008                                                                     CONTACT: Joshua Friedes,                                                                                                                        Advocacy Director

                                                                                                                (206) 679-8546

Equal Rights Washington (ERW) applauds the introduction of HB 3104 and SB 6716, which will expand the State’s domestic partnership registry to include new rights previously unavailable to the families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Washingtonians.

“Bravo to the legislators and stakeholders who have pushed to introduce this bill.  Last year the first important steps towards full marriage equality were taken and we honor the courage of those who made domestic partnership a reality in Washington.  This year we need to expand our domestic partnership legislation to include more basic protections that will help families throughout the state of Washington,” said Connie Watts, executive director of ERW.

And support for domestic partnerships is on the rise.  “We need not look much further than the University of Washington’s latest poll that showed that support marriage equality in Washington State increased by 6% this past year and that 58% of all Washingtonians support gay and lesbian couples having the same rights and benefits of married couples,” stated Joshua Friedes, ERW advocacy director of ERW.

             

Examples of the short-fall in protections for families are witnessed on a daily basis by ERW staff.  Judy Fleissner, a police officer for the city of Bellevue and her partner, Chris, registered as domestic partners last year. “These very basic protections are only a first step. As a police officer, I need to know that if something happens to me in the line of duty that my family will be properly provided for.” Andrew Kamins is a veteran of the United States Navy and feels that “all veterans deserve the same set of rights. Excluding the family members of certain veterans… for any reason, does a disservice to gay veterans and also maligns the service of all veterans by requiring us to pass an arbitrary litmus test before service to this country is honored.”   Mark Andersen is living with Multiple Sclerosis and worries about his partner’s rights “if and when, God forbid, I should find myself in the escalating stages of this disease, I want my chosen and committed spouse to be unhampered in his ability to make medical choice for me, and life decisions for me. I want him to be able to enjoy the things we have built together in this life without having to worry about his legal rights any more than a heterosexual couple.” Mr. Andersen joins thousands of others in supporting the expansion of the domestic partnership bill.

“ERW and our large statewide base of supporters will work diligently towards the passage of this package of basic protections.  And we will not rest until we have full marriage equality,” said Watts.

 

XXX

Governor signs Domestic Partnership Bill!

April 21, 2007

Contact Josh Friedes, Advocacy Director

Equal Rights Washington celebrates the historic signing of SB 5336, the Domestic Partnership Bill, by Governor Christine Gregoire. This law will provide important emergency protections for thousands of Washington’s LGBT couples, families, and seniors during their most vulnerable moments, including disability, sickness, and death.  The signing of this bill is an important step toward recognizing and protecting LGBT couples and families throughout Washington, however it is not enough.  Equal Rights Washington will not rest until marriage, with all of its rights and responsibilities, is available to same-sex couples in Washington.

ERW thanks Governor Christine Gregoire, the House & Senate Leadership, and equality-minded legislators for their support in passing this legislation. We also thank our coalition partners and activists throughout the state who were integral to the passage of this bill. 

The signing of the domestic partnership bill into law will have immediate impact on couples like John McCluskey and his partner Rudy Henry from Tacoma.  They have been together for 48 years and are worrying about end-of-life decisions.  “The domestic partnership law provides me with the added security that if either of us die we will be able to make final decisions and arrangements and not risk being separated or losing our assets after a lifetime of being together,” said John McCluskey.

“On behalf of Equal Rights Washington and my own family – we are proud today of this important step in protection of LGBT couples and families but the journey to full marriage equality will continue,” said Barbara Green, interim director of ERW.

 

 

ERW Proud to Announce New Executive Director!

For Immediate Release:                          April 18, 2007

Contact: Barbara Green, Interim Executive Director,

at (206) 324-2570

Equal Rights Washington is thrilled to announce the appointment of Connie Watts as our Executive Director!

“We appreciate the support ERW stakeholders gave us throughout our search process. We are confident our extensive search has enabled us to find the right person to lead ERW. Connie is a passionate advocate for social justice and will be a huge asset to the organization,” said Thomas Zambito, ERW Board Chair.

Connie hails from Utah, but most recently lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as National Field Director for Planned Parenthood Federation of America for seven years. Connie and her partner are the proud parents of an 18-month-old son. "The opportunity to work with ERW and the Washington State LGBT community is both exciting and humbling,” Watts said. “I'm thrilled to work with so many passionate and committed activists and volunteers. Together, we will build on our history to grow a powerful equal rights movement."

Thomas Zambito, who led the search committee, said, "Connie Watts brings tremendous experience to ERW. We are really excited she is taking the helm of ERW and we look forward to working with her. Her level of passion for this work is palpable." Barbara Green, ERW's Interim Executive Director, said, "With her fundraising and leadership skills--not to mention her political savvy--I am confident Connie will help ERW grow into a stronger, more powerful organization."

Connie will spend two weeks working with Interim Executive Director, Barbara Green, before her official start date of June 4.

Please join us in giving Connie a warm welcome!

Equal Rights Washington Applauds Passage of Domestic Partnership Bill, Promises to Continue Work for Marriage Equality

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 10, 2007
CONTACT: Josh Friedes, Advocacy Director, Equal Rights Washington, (206) 679-8546

Equal Rights Washington (ERW) applauds the House for passing the Domestic Partnership bill today. The Governor, a longtime supporter of equality for gay and lesbian Washingtonians, has said she will sign the bill. ERW wants to especially thank Senator Ed Murray and Representatives Joe McDermott, Jim Moeller, Jamie Pedersen and Dave Upthegrove for working to immediately protect Washington's LGBT families, while simultaneously championing the cause of marriage equality. Washington State's citizens want gay and lesbian couples to have the basic protections this bill will provide--one of which is the right of automatic hospital visitation.

This law will provide same-sex couples limited, though important, protections during their most vulnerable times--during illness, incapacity and death. "We view this bill as an emergency protection act. We will continue to talk about the lives of LGBT families and the importance of marriage equality," said Barbara Green, ERW's Interim Executive Director. "The Domestic Partnership bill offers only a fraction of full marriage protections. This bill has been an important vehicle for talking about all the rights and protections currently unavailable to families formed by gay and lesbian couples. ERW will continue to work for marriage equality until we achieve it."

According to Green, “Marriage provides a legal and social safety net that is unparalleled in protecting families during times of crisis. Same-sex couples need the 400 plus statewide protections, and the 1,000 plus federal protections that come with civil marriage. Nothing short of marriage will provide LGBT families with the protections and dignity we deserve."

The Domestic Partnership bill will also protect senior couples, who may choose not to marry due to harsh economic penalties. “This law is sound public policy; it protects families in Washington State currently without a safety net," said Green.

Equal Rights Washington (ERW) is a statewide political advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Washingtonians.


Statement of Interim Executive Director Barbara Green on the Senate Passing the Domestic Partnership bill:

As Interim Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington, and perhaps even more importantly, as a lesbian mother, I want to thank the Senate for passing the Domestic Partnership bill today. I especially appreciate Senator Ed Murray’s leadership in moving this bill so quickly. I am confident that the House will swiftly pass the bill and the Governor will sign it. This law would protect same-sex couples and senior citizens from certain types of hardship when they're most at risk—during illness, incapacity and when dealing with a partner's death. This bill is needed by gay and lesbian committed couples because we are barred from marriage; the Domestic Partnership bill contains a few of the vital protections that marriage provides. In addition, senior couples who choose not to marry due to unfair economic penalties will also gain protections under this law. Passing this bill is sound public policy; it protects families currently without a safety net.

One thousand five hundred Washingtonians showed up this past Monday, February 26th, for Equality day to talk to their legislators about why they support the Domestic Partnership bill and continuing the dialogue about marriage equality. Many of those lobbying we straight people, clergy, and people of faith.

But let us be clear. The domestic partnership is not equality nor does it meet the legal needs of same-sex couples. Marriage provides a legal and social safety net that is unparalleled in protecting families during times of crisis. Same-sex couples need all of the 400 plus statewide protections as well as the more than 1,000 federal protections that come with marriage. Nothing short of marriage will provide families like mine with the protections and dignity we deserve; domestic partnerships will, however, offer us the immediate protections we desperately need.


STATEMENT OF INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BARBARA GREEN ON THE FILING OF THE MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP BILLS.

January 11, 2007

As the interim Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington, and perhaps even more importantly, as a lesbian mother, I would like to thank Senator Murray and Representatives McDermott, Moeller, Pedersen and Upthegrove for introducing the marriage equality and domestic partnership bills.

Let me tell you why.

My partner Annie and I have been in a loving, committed relationship for almost 22 years. We live in our cozy little home with our 12 year old son, two cats and a dog. Because we cannot be legally married, when our son was born, we spent more time in our lawyer’s office than we did at his baby shower. We spent more money on lawyers than we did on his birth. It took thousands of dollars to establish only a handful of the protections that married people automatically receive. There are thousands of families like mine in Washington, whose children are endangered by laws that don’t protect their families or recognize their relationships.

Annie and I have been blessed with good fortune. We have supportive families and we could afford to hire an attorney. However, there are many lesbian and gay families that have undergone heart-wrenching experiences, because their relationships weren't protected.

Let me share a few stories with you that people have provided ERW about the hardships they face because they lack the protections marriage affords. You can read these stories on our website www.EqualRightsWashington.org. There is the story of Jim, who lost the home he and his partner had lived in for years when his partner died. Why? The house was in his partner’s name, and his partner’s parents took it. Or I could tell you about Mike, who was prohibited from visiting his partner as he was dying in the hospital. And then there's Ginger, who upon the death of her partner of eight years, was forbidden to give her the funeral service she would have wanted. These are just a few of the hundred plus stories ERW has collected and is posting on its website.

Marriage provides a legal and social safety net that is unparalleled in protecting families in times of crisis. To deny me the right to marry is to deny all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people--and our children--our humanity. Nothing short of marriage will provide families like mine with the protections and dignity that we deserve, but domestic partnerships will offer many families, ones like mine, immediate protections they desperately need.

Equal Rights Washington will continue to work for marriage equality for as long as it takes. In the meantime, we will support the domestic partnership bill because it provides some essential protections to those who need it. I will not have to worry whether those expensive legal documents I mentioned earlier will be considered valid. The domestic partnership bill will also help educate the public and legislators on the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families.

To this end, Equal Rights Washington will continue to have meetings and conversations throughout the state, and empower others to get involved. We will encourage supporters to join ERW and the Religious Coalition for Equality in Olympia for Equality Day on February 26th. We will bring people to the Capitol to rally for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality and to meet with their legislators to let them know why marriage equality must be won.

We are confident that we will be successful in the passage of the domestic partnership bill this session. While recognizing that passage of the marriage equality bill will not happen immediately, we are grateful that so many legislators, community organizations, and faith traditions are actively engaged in the struggle. We will not rest until we have gained equality for all LGBT Washingtonians. We commit ourselves to working with both the returning and newly elected legislators who support this equality.

Thank you.

Editor's note: This was Barbara Green's prepared statement for the press conference that took place at 10 a.m. on January 11th in Olympia, Washington. Due to the snowy weather, she was unable to attend.

Religious Coalition for Equality and Equal Rights Washington Set Date for 3rd annual Equality Day:
Mark your calendars for February 26, 2007!.

For Immediate Release: January 3, 2007

 

The Religious Coalition for Equality and Equal Rights Washington announced today that the third annual Equality Day in Olympia will be held February 26, 2007.

On Equality Day, clergy and people of faith—both straight and gay—will gather with other allies and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to lobby their legislators to end legal discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and families.

A noontime rally will provide legislators and others an opportunity to hear prominent clergy & community leaders speak in support of gay rights. The Equality Day rally typically draws over 1,500 attendees. Past speakers have included Rev. Monica Corsaro, Rabbi Jonathon Singer, Governor Christine Gregoire, and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.

After the rally, clergy and Equality Day participants will have an opportunity to meet with their legislators. Equality Day is an opportunity for people to discuss why they support LGBT civil rights. Stories told by clergy and straight supporters of gay rights are just as powerful as stories told by members of the LGBT community. Equality Day is an opportunity for people of faith, labor union members, school teachers, grandmothers, and teenagers to join together and show their support for marriage equality and other rights currently denied the gay community.

“As a pastor who has many gay families and individuals in my congregation, I see how legal inequalities deny gays and lesbians the basic protections my heterosexual congregants (and my wife and I) take for granted every day. Particularly troubling to me is that same-sex couples in committed relationships are denied the right to marry. The couples and their children are denied over 1,400 legal protections that come with civil marriage. In addition, the state is imposing the religious values of some faith traditions over those of other faith traditions that do consider same-sex relationships holy," said Dr. Stephen Jones of Seattle First Baptist Church.

Marriage equality is a matter of both basic civil rights and religious liberty. Common to almost all faith traditions is a strong desire to seek justice; it should be of little surprise that clergy, congregations, and people of faith are leaders and active participants in the struggle to end discrimination in the issuance of civil marriage licenses.

"Marriage equality in Washington State is inevitable. However, as we continue the discussion about marriage equality in the legislature and communities across the state, we also need to address the immediate needs of lesbian and gay families today," said Barbara Green, Interim Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington.

“Marriage equality alone will not address many of the issues that confront the gay community: safe schools; affordable and quality healthcare; and services for older gay couples and individuals. While we work for marriage equality, we must also lobby the legislature and educate the public about this broad spectrum of topics,” added Green.

Faith communities and organizations from all across Washington State will organize busses and carpools to Olympia for Equality Day. People who wish to attend can learn more at the ERW and RCE websites: equalrightswashington.org and www.religiouscoalition-wa.org.

The Religious Coalition for Equality (RCE) provides a progressive interfaith voice in Washington regarding equal rights and marriage equality for the LGBT community. RCE offers a vision and voice that stands in stark contrast to what far-right religious leaders intend to impose on the nation. Equal Rights Washington (ERW) is a statewide political advocacy organization with over 20,000 advocates who are working to promote the dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Washingtonians.

 

Equal Rights Washington Endorses Justices Tom Chambers and Susan Owens for Washington State Supreme Court.

Equal Rights Washington is pleased to announce that it has endorsed Justice Susan Owens and Justice Tom Chambers for Washington State Supreme Court.  Justices Owens and Chambers have carried out their duties as jurists in accordance with the highest legal standards.

As a civil rights organization, Equal Rights Washington makes its endorsements on a simple standard: do judicial candidates have a record of treating equally all persons who come to the court seeking relief? Justices Chambers and Owens treat all parties in legal cases in accordance with America’s most important legal principle: all people are created equal and are entitled to equal protection under the law. Justice Chambers and Justice Owens most recently demonstrated their commitment to equal treatment for all Washingtonian residents when they issued a powerful dissent in Washington marriage equality cases, Andersen v. King County and Castle v. State of Washington. 

Both Justice Chambers and Justice Owens are facing challenges from well-financed candidates who are being supported by radical right organizations such as the Faith and Freedom Network. This organization aggressively collected signatures to repeal Washington State’s anti-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  

Judicial elections can be decided in the September primary election if a candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote. Equal Rights Washington urges everyone who believes in equality for all Washingtonians to vote for Justice Susan Owens and Justice Tom Chambers in the primary election. Many people are unfamiliar with judicial candidates and many people who vote in primaries do not vote for justices. Equal Rights Washington recommends that equality minded voters talk to their friends and family about the importance of voting for Justice Owens and Justice Tom Chambers. 

Founded in 2004, Equal Rights Washington is a state-wide organization with a membership of over 18,000  gay and non-gay advocates whose  mission is to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Washingtonians through education, lobbying and electoral work. 

 

 

ERW Disappointed in Marriage Lawsuit Decision, Promises to Take Fight to the Legislature

Today the Washington State Supreme Court delivered a distressing decision to state residents when they refused to alleviate the suffering that lesbian and gay couples and their children face by being denied the basic human right of marriage.

“Of course we are disappointed in the ruling,” said Barbara Green, Interim Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington. “Today in Washington state families headed by lesbian and gay couples lack the critical protections afforded by marriage. Our children, elderly couples and surviving partners will remain vulnerable and all gays will continue to be second class citizens until marriage equality is achieved”

Josh Friedes, ERW Advocacy Director, added, “In the United States, the right to marry is a hallmark of full citizenship, and all gays and lesbians have been branded as second class citizens by being denied the basic right to marry the person they love.”

ERW will now turn our attention to changing the law through the state legislature. Said Friedes, “We are confident that support for ending discrimination will grow over time as lesbian and gay families tell their stories to legislators and the public. We take comfort in the knowledge that support for marriage equality is growing in Washington and that faith communities are joining with the families, friends, neighbors and co-workers of gays and lesbians to advocate for basic civil rights for their loved ones.”

Equal Rights Washington (ERW) works to ensure and promote dignity, safety and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Washingtonians.

Previous Press Releases

ERW Announces Departure of Executive Director Fran Dunaway
(March 22, 2006)  After 8 months as Executive Director for Equal Rights Washington, Fran Dunaway will be leaving her position. Dunaway was hired to facilitate advancing the organization from a volunteer-based, board-led organization to a staff-led one, and to create the infrastructure for a statewide advocacy organization. Both of these goals have been met. (more)

 

ERW Executive Director Fran Dunaway releases a statement in response to the news of a Tim Eyman ballot measure to repeal HB 2661:
1/29/2006
“It’s unfortunate that the principle of basic equality is the target of this year’s right-wing organizing drive disguised as a ballot campaign. Your tax dollars at work, again.

“Fair-minded Washingtonians rejoiced at the history we made together with HB2661, in extending equal rights throughout the state. But we and our allies also anticipated that our opponents would go to any length to see that discrimination continues in Washington, and we will do what we need to in order to protect equal rights. We are mobilized, we are motivated and we are ready. We won on Friday and we will win again in November.

“We don't need this in our state. This is about everyone. Washingtonians don't discriminate and we don't divide communities. And the sponsors of this initiative are about to learn that the hard way.”

Washington State to Become 17th State to Protect Gays and Lesbians from Discrimination
(Friday, January 26, 2006)  Today the Washington State Senate approved passage of legislation that will protect Washingtonians from discrimination based on sexual orientation.  The bill passed 25-23 in the Senate. Last week, the Washington State House of Representatives passed the bill, sending it to the Senate. Governor Christine Gregoire has previously stated that she would sign the legislation.
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EQUAL RIGHTS WASHINGTON STATEMENT ON COMMENTS MADE TODAY BY REVEREND HUTCHERSON
January 16, 2006
Equal Rights Washington Executive Director Fran Dunaway released the following statement today: “It’s sad that on the day we remember MLK that a small minority of people believes that it’s okay to fire someone or deny them housing simply because they are gay. The vast majority of people in Washington State support protecting all Washingtonians from discrimination.”
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BUSINESS COMMUNITY UNITED IN SUPPORT TO PROTECT WASHINGTONIANS FROM DISCRIMINATION
January 12, 2006
Equal Rights Washington Executive Director Fran Dunaway released the following statement today: “A coalition of businesses today announced their support of the anti-discrimination bill that was introduced in the house yesterday by Governor Gregoire..." (more)

Read the Lettter from the Coalition here.

HATE CRIMES AND ACTS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LESBIANS AND GAYS INCREASING
December 21, 2005
(Seattle, Washington) Communities Count 2005, a report released by King County’s Public Health Department and other public and private funders last week, paints a disturbing picture of rising discrimination and violence against King County’s lesbian and gay population. The overall report profiles social, health and other indicators in King County, including comparisons to conditions in the County in prior years, and is released every three years. (more)

Book Banning Sends Wrong Message to Gay Teens
(November 28, 2005) Equal Rights Washington (ERW) today urges the University Place School District to return Brent Hartinger’s book, Geography Club, to the shelves of its middle and high school libraries. University Place recently announced that the book, which contains gay themes, was pulled from the shelves due to the complaints of one student’s parents. (more)

November 3, 2005—Equal Rights Washington (ERW) today released the following statement following the Washington Supreme Court decision in In Re Parentage of L.B. The ruling recognized the rights of non-biological parents, including gay men and lesbians.

State Supreme Court rules lesbian may seek parental rights
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a woman who raised a child from birth to age 6 while in a relationship with the girl's biological mother can seek rights as a "de facto parent," essentially creating a new class of parent in the state.

"Today we hold that our common law recognizes the status of de facto parents and places them in parity with biological and adoptive parents in our state," the court, led by Justice Bobbe J. Bridge, wrote in the 7-2 decision. "Neither the United States Supreme Court nor this court has ever held that 'family' or 'parents' are terms limited in their definition by a strict biological prerequisite." Read More:

Equality Federation Hosts Largest Ever Meeting of State LGBT Leaders (August 10, 2005)

Washington State Recognized as Battleground for Equality (August 8, 2005)

Fran Dunaway Named Executive Director of ERW (July 18, 2005)

Equal Rights Washington Applauds Microsoft's Support of Anti-Discrimination Bill (May 6, 2005)

ERW TO BILL GATES: EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION ISN'T JUST ANOTHER SOCIAL ISSUE (April 28, 2005)

MICROSOFT SHOULD FIRE RALPH REED (April 26, 2005)

EQUAL RIGHTS WASHINGTON DEMANDS IMMEDIATE ACTION FROM MICROSOFT (April 26, 2005)

EQUAL RIGHTS WASHINGTON RELEASES TELEVISION AD TO PUT PRESSURE ON SENATORS TO PASS ANTI DISCRIMINATION BILL (April 11, 2005)

 

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Equal Rights Washington (ERW) works to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Washingtonians.

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