Today’s Prop 8 Ruling Goes Beyond California’s Borders
Seattle LGBT Advocate Charlene Strong Sees First Step to Overturning DOMA
Human Rights are not Special Rights
SEATTLE - August 4, 2010 - Today a federal court ruled that California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative which banned same-sex marriage in the state last November, unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses. This decision is critical as its ramifications could reach beyond California’s borders to challenge the federal ban on same-sex marriage known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Charlene Strong, a Washington State Human Rights Commissioner whose personal story of courage in the face of inequality helped to pass landmark domestic partnership legislation, is working hard to see that DOMA is overturned. She sees today’s ruling as an important first step in that process.
Laws barring full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are the last examples of state sponsored discrimination in the United States. Without full equality at the federal level, LGBT people will continue to be second class citizens, unable to fully participate in all of the rights, responsibilities and benefits of United States citizenship.
“Today’s ruling is very good news. LGBT rights are not special rights. These are human rights,” Charlene Strong says. “Anyone who says otherwise, that all citizens are not entitled full equality in our country is speaking from their own personal bias and nothing more. This has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with who you love.”
There is a patchwork quilt of same-sex marriage protections in the states. But whether protections are termed “marriage,” “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions,” all of these rights stop at the state border. “There are no protections for LGBT people at the federal level. That is over 1,138 rights we don’t have that are available to opposite sex couples,” Charlene reiterates. These rights include social security survivor benefits, tax incentives for married couples, the ability to transfer property and more.
“I look forward to working with Equal Rights Washington to empower people across the state to talk to their friends and family about the importance of marriage equality and the lives of gay and lesbian families,” Strong relates.
"I am an American and I am proud of that. I am not fighting for my rights alone -- I am standing up and fighting for every gay and lesbian couple who pay their taxes, contribute to society and who want the same protections every other American is afforded if and when they choose to marry."
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Charlene Strong Op-Ed, Seattle Times, July 26: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2012455623_guest27strong.html.
FOR MY WIFE (Trick Dog Films, 2007) -- An award-winning feature documentary film capturing her transformation into an activist for equality and her successful campaign to see domestic partnership legislation in Washington state. FOR MY WIFE will be released on DVD on August 31 (Cinema Libre): www.formywife.info.
Find out about Equal Rights Washington: www.equalrightswashington.org
About Charlene Strong
Charlene Strong lost her wife, Kate Fleming when flood waters invaded their Seattle home in 2006. Initially prevented from seeing Kate on her deathbed and unable to make the most rudimentary of arrangements on Kate’s behalf, Charlene has become a tireless advocate for marriage equality and equal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families. Her testimony one month after Kate's death was instrumental in the 2007 passage of landmark domestic partnership legislation in Washington state and her story was captured in the award-winning feature documentary FOR MY WIFE (2007, Trick Dog Films). Soon after, Charlene was appointed by Governor Chris Gregoire to the Washington State Human Rights Commission. In 2009, Charlene's strong voice was vital to the historic passage of Washington state’s Referendum 71 affirming for the first time by popular vote LGBT partner rights. Taking the fight for equality beyond Washington’s borders, Charlene's story and courage have made her a nationally recognized activist.