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Why Marriage Matters to Me
by Mike McGinn, Mayor of Seattle
June 22, 2012

What separates Seattle from cities like New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Vancouver, B.C., Iowa City, Burlington, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, and others around the world? In Seattle, unlike those cities, same-sex couples are prevented from getting married. Loving couples in Seattle and in Washington State should be able to celebrate their love without being discriminated against by our laws.

After years of hard work by activists and legislators, the barriers of discrimination that prevent same-sex couples in Seattle and across Washington State from exercising their right to marry have almost been removed. But there’s still a significant challenge ahead.

From the Stonewall protests in New York City in 1969 to Seattle’s landmark 1973 non-discrimination ordinance to San Francisco’s decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, cities have led the way in fighting for the rights of all LGBT people. That stems from the important role cities have played for LGBT communities. For decades, cities like Seattle were among the few places anywhere in the country that LGBT people had a chance to live openly, without fear of retribution. To this day, young men and young women who are being bullied or harassed for their sexual orientation come to Seattle with the hope of finding freedom, equality, and justice. It’s our job to make sure we live up to that promise.

As cities became home to thriving LGBT communities, businesses, and cultural institutions, LGBT economic and political power grew. It provided the basis for anti-discrimination legislation and policy. Thanks to the work of activists and legislators, many of them from Seattle, Washington State finally passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights to marriage that have long been available to straight couples. We owe a debt to the men and women who have spent decades fighting for full equality for same-sex couples. Their dedication to equality and justice never wavered.

I know that Seattle will continue to lead the way in working to protect same-sex couples and their rights to equal treatment. This fall, we will have to continue that hard work if we are to overcome the last obstacle to bringing marriage equality home to the Emerald City. Fundamental rights, like marriage, should not be put to a public vote. I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the opponents of marriage equality have succeeded in bringing a referendum to overturn the marriage equality law. The opinion polls may be encouraging, but let us be clear about the challenge we face. The opposition is extremely well-funded and well-organized. No state has yet approved marriage equality at the ballot box. Several states have come close, but we have watched as voters from Maine to California defeated marriage equality.

We can break that streak here in Washington State this fall – but only if we step up and put in the work needed to win. We have won this kind of battle before. In 1977, opponents of LGBT rights attempted to repeal our non-discrimination ordinance. Although voters across the country had repealed similar ordinances, Seattle was one of the first cities where equality was upheld at the ballot box.

To win again, we will need to tell the stories of those who are discriminated against under current laws. And we will need to make sure voters hear those stories. Turnout matters. Every voter who cares about marriage equality needs to cast a ballot this fall. We cannot lose this vote just because not enough Seattleites turned out to vote when it counted. There are many marriage equality supporters living in cities large and small around our state, and they need to be involved too.

I am committed to doing everything I can to support marriage equality. I look forward to the day when same-sex couples can celebrate their weddings here in Seattle, putting us one step closer to full equality for everyone who calls this city home.

This article first appeared in the Seattle Gay News, June 22, 2012
Reprinted with permission.

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