In this recent election, many people who live on the margins experienced victories, from the visibility and power of the Latino vote on the national level to the passage of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland and Washington. The legalization of marriage in Washington, which begins on Dec. 6, gives lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) couples the access to government services, tax breaks, and legal family protections we didn’t have before. It also sets a precedent to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which could mean federal recognition. Washington’s passage of Referendum 74 (R-74) not only means people in the LGBTQ community can choose to get married legally, but it heightens the visibility of these communities, too.
It’s time to celebrate the many social justice shifts that are happening across our country. But we must also remember our history and acknowledge our current diversity. Our community has a long history of diverse family structures. Often, as a response to homophobia and transphobia,
LGBTQ people create “chosen families” of friends, relatives and past and current lovers who take care of us and accept our care in return. And there are those in the LGBTQ community, who, although supportive of marriage equality, will not choose marriage. We will not receive the government services tied to marriage, like health care benefits, just like unmarried heterosexuals.
And yet, it is possible and important that we honor the success of R-74 by channeling the momentum generated by marriage equality into building coalitions that will work to secure additional needed human rights and justice for everyone in our community. For this reason, it is critical for organizations like LGBTQ Allyship to continue with our mission of social and economic justice advocacy for LGBTQ individuals who are working class, low-income and homeless.
This increased visibility has the potential to make it safer for the state’s LGBTQ youth, immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities, welfare recipients, people of color and many other marginalized individuals. Even my parents, living in my hometown of Auburn, who have not always been supportive of my sexual orientation, voted to approve R-74.
Their exposure toLGBTQ people in media, in politics, in their communities — and their belief in me — changed their hearts and minds. Because of all this, they can acknowledge that all relationships and families deserve state recognition.
It is vital to recognize the organizing work of other social justice movements that helped to educate their communities through all the dialogues, endorsements and doorbelling. Yes, there was the usual inside political strategizing that happens in any campaign, but of far more importance was the commitment of the broader social justice community. Organizations like the NAACP, Casa Latina, Vietnamese Friendship Association, Washington Community Action Network, Children’s Alliance, Asian Counseling and Referral Services and the NW Immigrant Rights Project used their limited resources to mobilize their communities to support marriage equality. And this is only a fraction of the organizations that endorsed and worked on the campaign. In looking forward, coalition and relationship development will be one of the most important benefits to the LGBTQ movement.
So it is time to say, “Thank you!” Thanks to all the organizations that came out on the side of justice. Thank you to all the unions, elected officials, friends, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, faith-based institutions, businesses and organizations that value LGBTQ individuals. You recognized that our fight for social justice is interconnected. We thank you for having our back, and we vow to have yours.