Sometimes it’s best to just let a story tell itself.
Here in Seattle we have an LGBT Commission.
From the Seattle LGBT Commission (SLGBTC) Website:
The Commission’s role is to effectively address and present the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens of Seattle to the Mayor, City Council, and all City Departments.
The Commission recommends legislation, policy, programs and budget items to the mayor, city council and city departments.
Purpose of the Seattle LGBT Commission – (Article I from LGBT Commission Bylaws)
- Provide information to the Mayor, City Council, and other City departments, offices, commissions and boards concerning issues of importance to lesbians, gays and other sexual minorities;
- Ensure that City departments address fairly the concerns of lesbians, gays and other sexual minorities individually and as a protected class under City ordinance and other applicable laws;
- As appropriate, recommend policies to all departments and offices of the City in matters affecting gay, lesbian, and sexual minority concerns, and recommend legislation for the implementation of such policies;
- Encourage understanding between the lesbian, gay and sexual minority communities and the larger Seattle community through long-range projects.
From SLGBTC’s Face Book Page:
March 8th Save the Date: Join us on Friday, March 16, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at City Hall (Room 370) for an event with leaders from three of Israel’s leading LGBTQ organizations. Hope to see you there!
March 14th Seattle LGBT Commission Response to concerns raised about AILO (Alliance of Israeli LGBT Educational Organizations) as voiced by Dean Spade
Dear whom it may concern,
The Seattle LGBT Commission values the comments of Dean Spade, who recently brought to our attention the concerns of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict and agenda of pink washing to cover up said crimes and corruption of the Israeli government. While we believe his concerns are valid, the purpose of the meeting with Israeli LGBT groups is to engage in a dialogue about their successes and progress of LGBTQ people’s rights in Israel and Seattle. While this dialogue is centered on efforts for LGBT equality we acknowledge that there is national and local concern about pink washing campaigns, occupation, and apartheid. Dean Spade’s concerns encompass a much larger issue that the commission is interested in exploring at a later date. We invite Dean Spade to attend our monthly LGBT commission meeting to share his perspective during the public comments section of our meeting agenda, this Thursday, March 15th from 6:30-8:30pm at Seattle City Hall (600 Fourth Avenue, Boards and Commission Conference Room L-280). Our monthly meetings, and the event on Friday, March 16th from 4:30-6:30pm at City Hall (Room 370) with Israeli LGBT groups are open to the public.
The mission of the Seattle LGBT Commission, under the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, is to effectively address and present the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens of Seattle, and to recommend legislation, policy, programs, and budget items to the Mayor, City Council, and all City Departments. More information about the upcoming monthly Seattle LGBT commission meeting and the meeting with the Israeli LGBT representatives can be found at this link: http://www.seattle.gov/LGBT/about.htm.
Members of the Seattle LGBT Commission
March 16th The Seattle LGBT Commission is hereby canceling the event scheduled for Friday, March 16, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at City Hall. At this time, the members of the LGBT Commission feel we are not thoroughly prepared to facilitate an event surrounding such complex topics.We have great respect for those who have shared their comments with us this week on all sides of the issue and are open to ways in which we can support community members in continuing this dialogue while involving all diverse perspectives involved.
Gay leaders from Israel snubbed by Seattle’s gay commission
Bowing to pressure from some gays outraged by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the city of Seattle commission that represents gays canceled a Friday reception at City Hall for a visiting delegation of Israeli gay leaders.
The meeting [was] one of several the six-member Israeli delegation had scheduled on the West Coast — with stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles — to exchange ideas on advancing gay rights. Only in Washington State, however, did the team encounter pushback from fellow gays.
At a heated commission meeting Thursday, a small, vocal group spoke out against the Jewish nation, saying Israel is masking what some call its poor treatment of Palestinians by promoting its positive record on gay rights — a phenomenon that has become known as “pinkwashing.” The Israeli delegation had other scheduled stops in Seattle that went uninterrupted, but one in Tacoma was also canceled, and one in Olympia was moved because of opposition.
“We wanted to talk about LGBTQ issues,” said Mac McGregor, co-chair of the commission, “We weren’t prepared to handle the Palestinian question.” Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Jean Godden and City Attorney Pete Holmes arranged a hurried, lunchtime meeting with the delegates and apologized for the snub.
Members of the delegation said they were shocked by the cancellation. “We expected from the Seattle LGBTQ Commission a strong declaration of its intent to support all LGBTQ activists, regardless of their color, sex or national origin,” the group said in a statement. “Sadly, it appears that the commission, representing a minority that continues to face discrimination, also practices that same discrimination.”
Seattle University law professor Dean Spade called the delegation’s visit “apartheid and occupation” wrapped in the rainbow flag. The concept of “pinkwashing” has been advanced among some gay-rights social-justice activists who believe Israel is using its progressive stance on gay rights to cover up a record on the mistreatment of Palestinians.
Some pro-Israel gay-rights organizations denounce the concept of pinkwashing. By saying that Israel has a positive record on gay rights does not deny anyone from criticizing its civil-rights record, say officials with the Wider Bridge, a California-based gay Jewish organization that helped to arrange the delegation’s visit. “The truth is that Israel is a good place to be LGBT, and it is so because there are countless people within Israel doing amazing, courageous work every day … saving lives, including the lives of young LGBTQ Palestinians who often have nowhere else to turn,” Wider Bridge officials said.
March 18th More than 70 comments were posted on the Commission’s Facebook page after The Seattle Times article appeared. Some agreed with the commission’s decision, most did not. Many were less politely worded than the comment I posted:
As a gay, Jew living in Seattle I am dismayed that you have cancelled the reception for LGBT Activists from Israel. I do not approve of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, but by this logic we would not host LGBT Activists from Uganda or Iraq or Iran or even the United States, all of whose countries have questionable human rights policies. And we certainly would not host LGBT Activists from Mississippi or Alabama whose abysmal treatment of its LGBTQ citizens are legendary. Hospitality is not an endorsement of repressive policies – it is an opportunity to open a dialogue.
March 19th After reading my comment, Mac Scotty McGregor, co-chair of the Seattle LGBT Commission, contacted me.
“I want you to know that I am heartbroken and outraged at the decision as well. I was the only commissioner present who voted to keep the meeting. I have spent time with the group of Israeli fellow LGBTQ activists and found them inspirational, informative and warm. I am doing all that I can to try somehow to rectify this. I cannot say more about the matter at this time because we [the commission] are releasing more of a statement today. But it is public record how I voted.”
March 19th A Wider Bridge, the organizers of the event issued a statement:
A Wider Bridge Appalled by Cancellation of
Seattle Israeli LGBT Leaders’ Event
A Wider Bridge is dismayed by the decision of the Seattle LGBT Commission to cancel a scheduled public meeting with the leaders of three prominent Israeli LGBTQ organizations during a recent visit to the West Coast, in response to pressure from a small number of advocates of boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel.
The meeting, which was scheduled to take place in Seattle’s City Hall on Friday, March 16, planned to feature the leaders of AILO, the Association of Israeli LGBTQ Educational Organizations. AILO is comprised of three organizations: Israeli Gay Youth (IGY), Hoshen (a Hebrew acronym for “Education and Change”) and Tehila, the Israeli version of PFLAG: Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. A Wider Bridge was the lead sponsor of the Israeli LGBTQ leaders two-week West Coast tour, which took them to meetings with LGBTQ and Jewish leaders in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle/Tacoma to share their experiences and to learn from those working on similar challenges here in the U.S. The discussions have focused on such topics as reducing teen suicides, HIV testing and prevention, and providing support for parents of LGBTQ children.
A Wider Bridge is a San Francisco–based national organization that seeks to educate people about Israeli LGBTQ society, politics, and culture, and to build connections between the North American LGBTQ and Jewish communities and the LGBTQ communities of Israel.
“A group of respected Israeli LGBTQ leaders came to the U.S. to discuss their work in making Israel a more inclusive place, and a better place to be an LGBTQ teenager,” said Arthur Slepian, Executive Director of A Wider Bridge. “Their voices have been silenced in Seattle by those who seek to demonize and delegitimize Israel, and who are willing to throw the Israeli LGBTQ community under the bus in the process. We were dismayed that the Commission gave in to objections raised by a small number of activists.”
“These ‘boycott Israel’ advocates claim that the purpose of the Israeli LGBTQ leaders’ meetings here is to conceal – or ‘pinkwash’ – Israel’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We do not seek to distract anyone from the issues concerning the conflict,” added Mr. Slepian. “The truth is that Israel is a good place to be LGBT, and it is so because there are countless people within Israel doing amazing, courageous work every day, especially with LGBT teens and families, saving lives, including the lives of young LGBTQ Palestinians who often have nowhere else to turn. Their work deserves to be supported, and their stories deserve to be told. It is not ‘pinkwashing’ to tell the truth.”
“Isolating and ignoring Israel’s LGBTQ community, pitting one minority against another, or calling for a wholesale boycott of Israel is not going to bring peace to the region any faster,” continued Mr. Slepian.
We are deeply disturbed by the single-minded and dehumanizing tactics of those who would seek to shut down these important opportunities for engagement, dialogue, learning and collaboration.
Who We Are
A Wider Bridge is a national organization that works to create more opportunities for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Jews in the U.S. and around the world, along with friends and allies, to engage and connect with Israel. We seek to build stronger ties between the LGBTQ and Jewish communities in North America and the LGBTQ communities in Israel. We accomplish our work through programs, educational and cultural events, and developing opportunities for travel.
March 20th The Board of the Greater Seattle Business Association wrote an open letter to the SLGBTC.
March 20, 2012
To: Seattle LGBT Commission, David W. Howenstine, Co-Chair and Mac Scotty McGregor, Co-Chair
Office of the Civil Rights
8210 Third Avenue, Suite 750
Seattle, Washington 98104-1627
On behalf of the Board of the Greater Seattle Business Association, the largest LGBT chamber of commerce in the United States with over 1000 members, we write to express our utter disappointment in your decision to silence LGBT voices by cancelling the City Hall event with a delegation of Israeli LGBT civil rights leaders. Succumbing to demands and lacking the courage to facilitate dialog with those who are our brethren in the LGBT equality movement will have far reaching consequences not only for the Commission but for the City of Seattle and its elected leaders.
As Seattleites, we are proud to be part of a City that has progressive values and is open, inclusive, engaged and a leader in equality. Thursday’s actions by the Commission have tarnished our image. The Commission was goaded into having the City take a position that is viewed by many as anti-equality, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. It has been manipulated into placing the City squarely in the middle of an age-old political controversy between Arabs and Jews, a position which we are confident that the Mayor and City Council do not share and did not intend for the City of Seattle.
Israel, regardless of its governmental policies, which some of us may or may not support, provides more protection for LGBT citizens than any other nation in the Middle East – and that protection is for all LGBT citizens, regardless of whether the person is Jewish, Christian or Muslim. We are living in a time in which the LGBT Community is facing life-threatening acts of violence against their existence in Iran, Iraq, and other countries in that region of the world and there is barely an outcry. However, the one Middle East country that actually has laws in place extending equal benefits and protections to its LGBT citizens has its motives questioned. The Commission’s response to withdraw its invitation to meet and talk raises serious questions not only about the motivations of those who lobbied for cancelling the City’s event, but also about the Commission’s abilities and effectiveness as a civil rights entity.
In our view, you have turned an opportunity to engage in open dialogue and education into the silencing of voices, violating the very tenants of our democracy – the freedom of speech and right to assemble. The message sent by the Commission to the world is out of step with our City values and with the Commission’s mission. Further, your actions are contrary to the views held by the leading LGBT organizations in our City.
It is difficult to undo the damage done by the LGBT Commission. We believe our City leaders will take necessary corrective action. The Commission and the Office for Civil Rights must also look to make amends for its actions and restore the lost confidence of the greater LGBT community. A public apology to the Israeli delegation, LGBT community and the citizens of Seattle, which should come from the Seattle LGBT Commission, Office for Civil Rights, City Council and Mayor, is a critical first step. Another way to start the rebuilding process is for each commissioner to reflect upon his or her actions and consider whether resigning his or her commission will foster renewed confidence, strength and leadership.
In the next couple of weeks, the GSBA will formally request meetings with the Office for Civil Rights, City Councilmembers and the Mayor to discuss the actions of the Commission, accountability of the Office for Civil Rights and address how an advisory commission is given authority to have decision-making powers with considerable and far reaching consequences for the City.
Very truly yours,
Louise Chernin Mark Rosén
President & CEO Board Chair
Chair, Public Affairs
March 20th The SLGBT issued a public statement which they posted on their website and Facebook page
by Seattle LGBT Commission on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 2:48pm
March 20, 2012
The Seattle LGBT Commission sincerely apologizes for the pain, offense and embarrassment that we caused by canceling our scheduled event with leaders from Israel’s LGBTQ community who were visiting U.S. cities. We apologize both to those leaders who were invited as our guests and to the many members of the Israeli, Palestinian, and LGBTQ communities in Seattle and worldwide who were affected by our decision.
The Commission has heard from many individuals who have shared their thoughts, concerns and outrage in emails, social media and phone calls. We appreciate those who have taken the time to reach out to us to express their thoughts and emotions, and we recognize that our actions have also touched many others who have not yet contacted us.
The Commission originally scheduled the event to foster greater dialogue within the LGBTQ community and to meet with Israeli leaders who are working in service of LGBTQ equality. We respect the work they are accomplishing. In advance of the event, we heard from many members of the local community who were concerned that hosting this event implicated broader issues. Much feedback expressed contained deep pain and anger.
At our March 15, 2012 Commission meeting, we listened to extended public comment from members of the public, both in favor of and against the event. This was a difficult decision. Our vote to cancel the meeting was not to make a stand for either side, but to recognize that we could not facilitate a neutral space for dialog and learning and keep the conversation focused on LGBTQ issues versus the larger issues of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
We also have heard from many who celebrate the cancellation of this event. We flatly reject the suggestion that there could be any joy or celebration in this outcome.
It is important for us to learn from this experience and to create a deeper conversation. The Commission is meeting with Seattle City Councilmembers and community leaders this week to develop ideas for future dialogue opportunities. We invite all to our next monthly Commission meeting to hear more from our community about the format for this learning dialog. Our next meeting is April 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the City Hall Boards and Commissions Room (5th Ave. and Cherry St., Room L280).
As members of a volunteer Commission, we are deeply touched by the concern and commitment expressed by communities both near and far. We appreciate everyone’s commitment to work for equity for our LGBTQ communities.
Members of the Seattle LGBT Commission
March 21st The Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee of The Seattle City Council, held its regularly scheduled meeting and heard testimony regarding the SLGBTC decision to cancel the event.
Sometimes it’s best to just let a story tell itself.
Stuart Wilber believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Allied person is the most powerful kind of activism. Shortly after meeting his partner in Chicago in 1977, he opened a gallery named In a Plain Brown Wrapper, where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt with sexuality and gender identification. In the late 1980’s when they moved to San Clemente, CA in Orange County, life as an openly gay couple became a political act. They moved to Seattle 16 years ago and married in Canada a few weeks after British Columbia legalized same-sex marriage. Although legally married in some countries, they are only considered domestic partners in Washington State. Equality continues to elude him.
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