Gwen Davis
King County Executive Dow Constantine in middle, right is Judge Janet Garrow, King County district court judge at the GSBA event in West Seattle.

Primary ballot candidates discuss LGBT, other issues at GSBA event

By Gwen Davis

“Obviously, winning the marriage battle was a watershed moment for the civil rights movement, but we can’t rest,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine on Wednesday evening. “We need to make the law fair for everyone but there’s another step which makes sure that discrimination itself is eradicated in our society.”
That executive made those comments while dropping by the 2014 Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) Candidate Reception event, co-sponsored by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce. GSBA combines business development, leadership and social action to expand economic opportunities for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and supporters. It is the largest LGBT chamber of commerce.
GSBA puts on the event annually.

“This is a pre-primary nonpartisan event,” said Matthew Landers, policy development and communications manager at GSBA. “We welcome all the candidates, anyone who is on the Aug. primary ballot.”
The event gave candidates the opportunity to talk with GSBA members about their take on issues that affect the LGBT community and small businesses.

“It provides a chance for our members to bring up concerns with our elected officials and talk face-to-face,” Landers said.

After the primaries, there will be a more formal sit-down question and answer session with the remaining candidates.

Around three-dozen candidates were present – running for a variety of positions, including state senate, state representative and judicial positions.

Candidates who had been in the legislature for many years had interesting stories about LGBT issues in the Washington.

“One of the most powerful moments in my career in the legislature is the moment we passed the gay marriage bill,” said Rep. Ross Hunter of the 48th LD. “It was an unbelievable change since the first time I took a vote on these issues was when my mentor, Ed Murray, asked me to sign on to a bill. He said, ‘you might not want to.’ It was a gay civil rights bill.”

This was 10 years ago.

“When we had that debate on the floor we had to [get people off the floor] because it was ‘inappropriate’ for 13-year-olds to listen to this,” he said.

“But when we had the gay marriage bill, a decade later, it was beautiful to see the change in America. I’d be proud to vote for and sponsor all those bills.”

Other candidates felt strongly about equality issues because they happened to be LGBT themselves.
“I’m gay and am married to my partner of 14 years,” said Joan McBride, candidate for the 48th LD senate seat and former mayor of Kirkland. “So I guess you would say I’m part of the community and am delighted that Washington and Oregon and California have become the west coast of equality.”

McBride has been an elected official for 26 years.

But other candidates talked about the progressive work they did, not just on behalf of the LGBT community, but for other populations, as well.

“I have one of the more progressive [list of accomplishments] on the bench and that is demonstrated by the [programs] I’ve created to address issues that arose over the past 10 years,” said Judge Fred Bonner, Seattle municipal court judge who has been in office for 24 years.

“For instance, I started [a program] for veterans who were coming into our system, where the genesis of their issues was post-traumatic stress,” he said. “I was able to connect them with services.”
“The other court I created was a community court for people who commit petty crimes – who steal food because they’re hungry, or sleep in doorways because they’re homeless, or are unemployed, or a myriad of issues,” he said.

“The community court requires that they access social services to address those issues, and transitional housing, chemical dependency and GED programs,” he said. “They are also required to do community service and give back to the community they offended. The program is six months long. At the end of six months their cases are dismissed, and they don’t have to serve jail time as they would have if they went through the regular system.”

The event had approximately 120 people and took place at the Sanctuary at Admiral. For more about the GSBA and how to become involved, visit www.thegsba.org

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