Work remains to ensure all have equal protection under the law.
THIS has been a long journey.
We reached a historic milestone Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a constitutional right to marriage equality. The ruling marks a tremendous victory for those who believe in the power of democracy.
I can say to Americans what I said to Washingtonians on the day we signed our state’s marriage-equality bill: Welcome to the other side of the rainbow.
I‘ve spent 30 years fighting for LGBT equality, first as an activist, then as an openly gay state legislator, and now as Seattle mayor.
I’m proud that Seattle was an early leader in adopting laws that banned employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In the state Legislature, we continued to lay the groundwork for marriage equality in 2006 with a historic civil-rights law banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in employment, housing and financial transactions.
Getting there was not easy, nor did it seem certain. It took nearly three decades of hopes and setbacks to pass a civil-rights bill. Only one year prior, we suffered a one-vote defeat in the state Senate.
This journey has not been easy, and it has often been painful. We had to keep faith that change would come step by step.
From there, we believed in the power of collaboration and building diverse coalitions to help push marriage equality past the finish line.
We made it to this point because of courageous individuals and families — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight — who told the stories of their lives and changed the hearts and minds of legislators, voters and, ultimately, justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.
It took tireless efforts by lawmakers, such as Cal Anderson and Jamie Pederson. And it required courage from legislators like former state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, who delivered the critical 25th vote for marriage equality and wound up losing her re-election bid in a district divided on this issue.
And it was the people of Washington state on election night in 2012 — along with voters in Maryland and Maine — who upheld the right of gay and lesbian families to full equality.
These victories have shown that democracy still lies in the hands of the people. It lies in the hands of those willing to organize, willing to campaign and willing to go to the ballot box.
But this journey is not over. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, there are 29 states with no LGBT anti-discrimination laws on the books. Efforts to pass federal legislation have been bogged down for decades.
As a result, our sisters and brothers in far too many states do not have equal protection against discrimination in housing, health care and employment. This is unacceptable.
To borrow from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s written decision, what we ask is for “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”
Friday’s ruling brought us one step closer to that idea. This weekend we celebrate, but next week we’ll get back to work until we know that all have equal protection under the law.