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Why Washington’s labor movement supports marriage equality


As a labor organization, as part of the labor movement, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO champions economic rights, civil and human rights, and social and economic justice.  We fight for the creation of living-wage jobs, the freedom to form unions to bargain for a better life and a voice on the job, and for all who work hard to be rewarded with fair wages and benefits. Organized labor’s efforts are driven by our core values: to achieve strong families, a secure middle class, and a better world for our children.

Those values naturally extend beyond the workplace, which is why unions have a long, proud history of supporting important civil and human rights. It’s why we work for equality in our communities and for an end to discrimination based on race, gender, age, or immigration status. And ultimately, it’s why the WSLC supports marriage equality.

During the last legislative session, when our representatives and senators were discussing and debating the Marriage Equality Act, we also debated and discussed the issue among elected labor leaders and members.  We decided the time is right in Washington State to extend the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the legal contract of marriage to our gay and lesbian Sisters and Brothers.

Marriage gives loving couples the ability to create strong families. Committed same-sex couples want the freedom to stand in front of family and friends and make a lifelong promise of love and commitment to each other. Our government should not stand in the way of their freedom to marry.

Union members march at the Seattle Pride Parade on June 24.

We communicated that support to our members and to lawmakers, and celebrated when the Washington State Legislature approved the historic bill this year. After learning about the effort to challenge the new law prior to the WSLC’s political endorsement convention in May, hundreds of delegates from unions across the state – public sector and private sector – voted overwhelming at that convention to reaffirm labor’s support for marriage equality in Washington.  We know this is the principled stand for all of us.  We want all of our Sisters and Brothers in loving, adult relationships to share the same rights under the law, to be able to choose their life partners and have the same social contract that everyone else enjoys.

That’s why we’ll be urging voters to APPROVE Referendum 74, affirming the Marriage Equality Act as it was enacted by our representatives, senators and governor in Olympia. It is also why we will oppose any efforts, whether R-74 or other initiatives, that would restrict the right of same-sex couples to marry and be recognized as partners under the law.

We are stronger when we stand together as working people. It is in this spirit of solidarity that unions in Washington State stand together with our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Brothers and Sisters. There can never be true justice and equality, unless it applies to all of us.

Lynne Dodson is Secretary-Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 500 local unions and 400,000 rank-and-file union members. The column originally appears in the Seattle Gay News.

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