Conversations Matter: Talking Marriage Equality in Spokane

After a rainbow-fueled community march to Spokane City Hall, a marathon of marriage equality testimony took place Monday night in Spokane’s City Council chambers. Proponents of marriage equality were hoping to pass a resolution for the city to support the state marriage equality law. Sadly, council elected to block the vote thus tabling the city’s marriage equality resolution indefinitely.

Councilman Jon Snyder, who was working to pass the resolution, shared his disappointment on his blog on Tuesday:

Last night the Council did something I’ve never seen either in my years of being on the Council or observing Spokane politics: the majority of the Council (members Fagan, McLaughlin, Salvatori, and Allen) blocked a simple up or down vote on the Marriage Equality resolution after four and half hours of public testimony. Originally Councilmember Fagan tried to force a vote that would have blocked all public testimony, but when that failed the measure was essentially killed by being tabled indefinitely. Two Councilmembers, Salvatori and Allen, who had previously stated their support for Marriage Equality voted against it.

After going through all that do I have any regrets about bringing this resolution forward? None at all. I would do it again in a heartbeat. With over 300 people packing the Council chambers to testify it was clear that Marriage Equality is a very important issue for many people in Spokane.

I feel strongly that marriage is love, commitment, and responsibility. Through testimony we were presented with two very clear visions for our city. On the one hand folks described an “America in decline” and a city filled with “perverts” who were “weakening our morals” to promote “communism” because gays and lesbians don’t belong in a “family-friendly city” and should not “undermine traditional marriage.” (I am not making this up. Check the tape. All these things were said last night.) On the other hand we heard amazing stories of love, perseverance, and community.

I learned a lot. Some of the stories were incredibly moving:

– An African-American professor showed pictures of her parents and her brother and his caucasian wife. She made the point that African Americans were not allowed to marry as slaves and as recently as the 1960s interacial marriages were against the law. She wondered aloud how long she would have to wait to be legally married in the United States.

– There were many former members of the armed forces who testified, including the stunningly eloquent Margaret Witt. All of these folks had to serve all or most of the their careers under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, where they put their lives on the line for a country that won’t allow them to get married. World War II veteran Buell Hollister, (who has been happily married to his wife for over 50 years) even voiced support for the resolution saying his mother taught him not to be prejudiced.

– Towards the end of testimony around 11:15PM a very large gentleman who claimed to be a minister to the homeless started chanting “gays will never get into heaven, gays will never get into heaven.” An extremely brave young student from North Central High School, who had waited all night, followed that display by giving testimony about the taunts and bullying he received in school. He further added that he had “begged his mom” to move back to Spokane after they had moved to Seattle because he wanted to get married someday and live in his hometown.

And their were many more. This was a community conversation that needed to happen. It brought out so many folks that had never been to a Council meeting before. Many had to leave because of the lateness of the hour and were not able to testify. When the Council finally deliberated even Councilmembers who were against the resolution offered testimony showing that the issue affected our community. Councilmember McLaughlin said “Do you like my hair? My hairdresser is gay.” Then she voted against Marriage Equality for her hairdresser.

The outpouring of support for Marriage Equality was truly inspiring. I want to thank everyone who worked so hard on the resolution, and especially my fellow Councilmembers Stuckart and Waldref who did a great job last night. I am especially impressed with the general civility of the dialogue last night. That speaks well of the City of Spokane. I believe that most people on both sides of the issue loved their city and that informed their position.

Take courage everyone. This isn’t over.


Councilman Snyder is right. Though the council’s decision is disappointing, I’m proud that these conversation are happening in Spokane and throughout Washington State.

As we marched down the sidewalk towards the Spokane City Hall, in anticipation of the final outcome of the council’s vote, we began chanting while waving rainbow flags and signs in support of marriage equality, love, commitment, and family. The passer-byers showed their support by honking horns and gave thumbs-up out their windows, which left a feeling of community support.

Public support for allowing same-sex couples to marry has grown significantly over the past few years, with multiple national polls showing that a majority of Americans now support marriage equality. This growing support has followed years of important public and private conversations about marriage for same-sex couples. These conversations have helped people who may have been conflicted in the past become supportive of marriage for loving, committed couples.

To learn more about marriage equality in Washington visit

Gunner Scott is Pride Foundation’s Director of Programs. Email Gunner. 

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