Ed Murray: Rallies Are Fine, Organizing Is Better
by Dan Savage
on Tue, May 26, 2009 at 12:37 PM
Asked to speak at the Prop 8 rally today in Westlake Center, State Senator Ed Murray (D-34) found himself feeling slightly ambivalent. Here we are planing a rally in Seattle about marriage equality in California when, according to Murray, "so few people are willing to get off their butts to do something about marriage equality here, in the state where they themselves live."
It's possible that Murray himself is partly to blame. Under Murray's leadership we've made tremendous strides in the Washington state legislature over the last four years: a long-stalled gay rights bill finally passed in 2006 and three domestic partnership bills passed in three years ('07, '08, '09). The three DP bills were Murray's incremental "everything but marriage" strategy; conceived after the Washington state Supreme Court's baldly bigoted decision against marriage equality, Murray's plan was to win the rights of marriage in three small chunks and, once that was accomplished and the sky didn't fall, move on to arguing for full marriage equality. There's a sense that real progress is being made here, that we're gaining ground, not losing ground, so who needs rallies and protests?
"I appreciate the compliment," says Murray, "but even if it's true depending on the legislature alone," or a handful of openly-gay legislators, "has its limits. Without significant political organizing at grass roots level, we're not going to get to marriage equality through in the legislature or survive a ballot challenge if we do manage get marriage equality out of the legislature."
Murray is going to the rally, and he's going to speak, but he hopes that the people who attend will get involved locally.
"The real challenge is after the rally," says Murray. "After the rally are they willing to adopt a legislative reelection campaign in a swing district and work for a candidate who supports marriage equality? Most of the swing districts are within driving distance of Seattle—they are in East King County, Pierce and Snohomish counties. They are not in eastern Washington. And it's in these swing districts that marriage equality in Washington state will be decided. Our ability to elect marriage equality supporters in those swing districts is crucial."
But Democrats have enjoyed super-majorities in both houses of the legislature for more than four years—what else do we need?
"It's not enough," says Murray. "Most of those legislators, at least in the state senate, have never once been asked to support marriage by a constituent. There's this false notion that lots of Democrats mean lots of supporters of marriage equality and that's simply not true. Not yet. We have a lot of work to do."