Politics The After Party
About 300 people jammed into the gilt & chandeliered foyer of the Paramount Theater on Pine Street at 6pm on Friday after work to celebrate the passage of the gay civil rights bill.
After a series of speakers—including Equal Right’s Washington Executive Director Fran Dunaway and Lifelong AIDS Alliance executive director Tina Podlodowski—Rep. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill, U. District) took the stage. The crowd had already been amped and bouyant—high fiving and hugging and cheering—but when Murray took the podium the house went to 11. Murray drew weighty and sustained applause as the day’s hero. (It was his bill, 2661, which passed the state Senate earlier in the day, 25-23, outlawing discrimination in housing, employment, and insurance, based on sexual orientation. Read Eli Sander’s live Slog coverage of the vote here.
After Murray finally quieted the crowd, his speech was interrupted twice—once when the crowd spontaneously started chanting his name, and then again when, after Murray thanked the room full of activists, someone yelled out, “No, thank YOU!â€ť …which led to more sustained cheers.
Murray paraphrased Gandhi, saying, “First they ignored us. Then they laughed at us. Then they fought us. And… we won.â€ť However, knowing that a backlash could be brewing, he ended his statement saying: “And if they threaten to use the ballot box to take away our rights, we will continue to fight…..We will never give up.â€ť
In addition to the beaming Seattle politicians on the scene (Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis; King County Council Member Dow Constantine; City Council Members Tom Rasmussen, Jan Drago, Richard Conlin, and brand-new lesbian Council Member Sally Clark who, kismet had it, was appointed earlier in the day) the room was loaded with gay activists of all stripes—from trannies to suits—who have organized and agitated on this issue for years—29 years.
For example, I talked to one guy in the crowd, a gray bearded guy in a dark blue oxford named Roger Winters. Winters, who currently works at King County in the clerk’s office, brought a copy of his typed, 10-page testimony from 1977 when he testified in Olympia in support of the original gay rights bill. My favorite passages from his 29-year-old testimony (he proudly handed me a copy) were the passages where he addressed “Objections to the Billâ€ť
He wrote at the time:
A)”The Bill would condone immorality”: You can’t legislate morality…Inasmuch as private sexual conduct between consenting persons of legal age is not now against Washington state law, allowing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation to continue would be tantamount to placing in the hands of any citizen the right to punish those whose private choices do not correspond to his or her own. Such discrimination has no regard for due process of law, evidence, fact, or the rights of the individual… B) “The Bill would allow practices against the bible”: The First Amendment prohibition against the State’s establishing any religion forbids the State from acting merely because the Bible says so. Those who believe that their religion prohibits homosexuality are free to refrain from such acts as a matter of individual conscience and freedom of religion, but they are not free to impose their religious doctrines upon the rest of their fellow citizens…â€ť
Thank You Roger Winters, 1977.
Two other things that blew me away at the Paramount tonight:
1) The row of five old ladies—dressed in fuzzy old-lady red, white, and pink sweaters—who were up in the balcony gazing down on the victory speeches, blowing their noses and wiping their eyes with Kleenex as former City Council Member, Podlodowski, gave the keynote speech. Podlodowski walked the crowd through the history of the struggle for the gay civil rights bill—including a slide show tribute to Cal Anderson, the state legislature’s first out gay lawmaker—first as a house rep from 1987 thru 1994 and then as a state senator until his death from AIDS in 1995. Anderson adamantly pushed the gay rights bill during his tenure.
2) When the spotlight fell on Eric Ishino, Anderson’s former partner. The room exploded into heartfelt cheers—a sort of jubilant sĂ©ance for a missing hero. I asked Ishino what Anderson might have said today, had he taken the stage at the Paramount. Ishino, who works for the city, said that after thanking everyone for their commitment to the bill, Anderson would have said: “We can’t let our guard down…we have to fight to protect what we’ve won.â€ť I then asked Ishino what he would have said to Anderson tonight. He was bashful. A giant smile bloomed on his face, and he just looked up at the gilt ceiling.