Guest: Don’t declare victory yet for same-sex couple rights
There are countless places across the western U.S. where gays and lesbians are not able to live openly, writes guest columnist Kris Hermanns.
Special to The Times
MANY Seattleites rejoiced over recent reports that our city now leads the nation with the highest concentration of same-sex households. According to the U.S. Census for 2012, of the city’s 125,000 households with couples, 7,551 of them — roughly one in 17 — were occupied by gay or lesbian couples.
This comes as welcome news to those of us who live in the Emerald City. It is heartening to know that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community is growing, thriving and becoming a more common, integrated part of the Seattle fabric.
Given Washington state’s 2012 approval of marriage equality, it is possible that Seattle might maintain its front-runner status over San Francisco and other cities for the foreseeable future.
But single-digit census gains are not, in and of themselves, a reason to declare victory and go home. While we celebrate the ubiquity of Seattle households and families headed by same-sex couples, we must remember that there are countless places across the western United States where gays and lesbians are not able to live as openly as we do here in the Puget Sound — places where daily living is fraught with adversity and legalized discrimination.
For instance, less than a day’s drive from Seattle, Idahoans can still lose their jobs or be denied housing for being LGBTQ. Over in Montana, nearly one in four same-sex couples is raising a child in poverty.
The barriers to full acceptance and normalcy for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people must be broken down. From Anchorage to Ashland, Bonners Ferry to Bozeman, too many LGBTQ youths, adults and families are unable to live openly and do not have access to basic services or legal protections, especially in rural and remote communities.
And lest we get too complacent, there is work to be done right here in King County, where as many as 1,000 youths experience homelessness nightly. Thirty to 50 percent of them identify as LGBTQ and have experienced family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Access to health care for transgendered people, comprehensive immigration reform, affordable education, relationship recognition, economic security, supportive elderly housing and access to safe environments for our kids are all priorities that are essential to fostering healthy and vibrant communities.
The census data about Seattle offer a fine opportunity for celebrating the diversity of our neighborhoods, communities and city. Straight or gay, married or not, we are incredibly lucky to live in a place that is envied the world over, and this latest data are yet another feather in our collective cap.
For all the great progress we’ve made, let’s remember that Seattle is not an island. We are but one city in a vast region. And like it or not, this region still has a lot of work to do.
Kris Hermanns is executive director of Seattle-based Pride Foundation, a LGBTQ-focused community organization serving Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Website: pridefoundation.org