Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Getting to know our elected marriage equality advocates

WA State Representative Dave Upthegrove

State Representative Dave Upthegrove spent some time in Spokane just before Christmas to visit the Odyssey Youth Center and the Gonzaga Young Democrats. Rep Upthegrove is the only state legislator who has his own "MySpace" account. You can take a look at his online profile at Myspace/Upthegrove.

Rep. Upthegrove is from the 33rd Legislative District which includes Des Moines, Burien, Sea Tac, Normandy Park and Kent areas just south of Seattle. While he is representing his own constituency he has also visited our area to engage in conversation about the "East Side" views on marriage equality and LGBT youth issues.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Rep. Upthegrove during a fund raiser for Senator Chris Marr (who ousted LGBT arch nemesis Brad Benson in November). Then got to know him a little better when he visited Spokane last fall. I found him to be witty, intelligent, authentic and with a genuine passion for politics and the struggles of the LGBT community on both sides of the state.

I recently asked Upthegrove what his thoughts were on the marriage initiatives. He said that “The long-term goal remains marriage equality for gay & lesbian families. However, we recognize that more work remains to be done to educate the public and our legislative colleagues about the need for and importance of marriage equality.”

According to Upthegrove, a key component of the initiative is building healthy communities. “We will continue to make the point that all families, including gay & lesbian families deserve access to the stability, security and equal benefits of marriage. This is important because strong families are the building blocks of healthy communities.” Most importantly, building healthy secure families and community is the foundation of a healthy and tolerant society.

Rep. Upthegrove and 24 other Democrats who sponsored HB 1350, which would repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act”, do not expect this legislation to advance through the process this year. In addition to HB 1350, in a bi-partisan effort, he and his colleagues have introduced HB 1351 which provides a few of the basic rights that married couples are granted by our government.

"In order to provide some level of immediate protection to gay & lesbian families, and in order to continue to educate our colleagues and the public, we also have introduced House Bill 1351 to provide a limited number of protections for all same-sex domestic partners, and for opposite-sex domestic partners over the age of 62 (because they have unique problems relating to pensions and federal benefits). HB 1351 has 55 co-sponsors, including 3 Republicans, and we are optimistic that we can pass the bill into law. Early indications have been positive from the Democratic leadership of both the House and the Senate, as well as Governor Gregoire."

I asked Rep. Upthegrove what we could do to support the efforts in Olympia:

"The best thing supporters can do is to contact their legislators to ask them to support the domestic partnership bill (HB 1351) this year. Continue to educate your legislators about the importance of full marriage equality. Talk to your friends and neighbors about why marriage equality matters to you. The Legislature is a reflection of the people who send us here, so it is important to engage in community and public education. Join civil rights groups, donate money to organizations that are working for marriage equality. Most of all, don't lose hope. We're making progress, and with your continued commitment and hard work the values of equality and fair treatment will prevail."

Upthegrove is currently the youngest member of the Washington State House of Representatives and a strong advocate for equality and youth involvement in civic affairs and politics. He is one of our elected representatives taking a stand for equality and social justice. Please let him know what you think! You can send Rep Upthegrove some love for taking a stand on marriage equality here.

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