HRC celebrates anniversary of marriage equality

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KNOXVILLE – After one year of marriage equality in Massachusetts, the Human Rights Campaign looks back on the events of the last year and the changes stemming from them.

In a statement issued yesterday, HRC’s Seth Kilbourn, Vice President for their Marriage Project and National Field Director, noted that there are more than 6,000 GLBT married couples in Massachusetts since marriage equality became legal on May 17, 2004.

Urging our community to continue the conversation about equality with their families, friends, and co-workers, Kilbourn points out that since it became legal, more than 60 per cent of voters support marriage equality.

“We’ve started talking and we can’t stop. We must remind those closest to us that GLBT people face the same struggles as our peers but without the same protections and without the same honor bestowed by society. Let’s talk about what it’s like to sometimes feel like an outsider in our own families. Let’s talk to them about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which our differences are used against us,” urges Kilbourn.

He continues, “We need to remind our friends and families that equality matters to them, too. There’s no question that our stories move people. Every single poll has shown that when people know us, really know, they move toward equality not away from it. Stories abound about the transformative effect on non-gay people when a same-sex couple they know gets married. All of a sudden the couple next door understands the relationship of the two women living next to them. They get it.”

In addition to Kilbourn’s statement, HRC President Joe Solomonese addressed marriage equality yesterday. An open discussion held in HRC’s online chat room focused on marriage equality and HRC’s plans for the future. More than 185 people sat in on the discussion in which Solomonese answered questions on marriage equality and other topics ranging from the impact on the Kerry campaign to broadening the base of financial support to include more civil rights and human rights sources.

Solomonese asserted that the best way to build alliances within and outside the GLBT community is to talk about our issues in ways that connect with non-gay Am eric ans in order to widen our circle of support. He voiced strong support for working with other civil rights groups and noted that HRC has a seat on the board of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. He explained that the work with their allies in that organization on issues ranging from hate crimes to judicial nomination concerns.

Solomonese also pointed out that although 13 states passed constitutional amendments against marriage equality last year, there were 14 states in which such measures were defeated by prevented ballot initiatives from coming to a vote. He also noted that in light of the recent Nebraska decision overturning anti-marriage equality laws in that state, there is cause for hope.

The issue of the Permanent Partner Immigration Act (PPIA) also arose with regard to the status of that bill on the federal level. Solomonese answered by saying that the bill has not yet been introduced, but that HRC is working closely with the co-sponsors and hope to see it introduced soon.

“One should not have to choose between their country and the one they love,” said HRC’s leader.

When asked if marriage was the most important issue facing the GLBT community today, Solomonese replied that it is one of many. He further elaborated that issues such as workplace concerns, hate crimes, a fair judiciary, HIV/AIDS, and a host of others were important as well.

He also proudly told of the recent meeting between HRC and Microsoft officials in which the Washington State legislation prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. After backing away from support for the measure, Microsoft was convinced to resume support after more than 200,000 emails were sent to corporate offices urging support for the bill.

In ending the session, Solomonese noted that HRC would make keeping marriage legal in Massachusetts a high priority for the future.