Courage in the Face of Inequality -- Charlene Strong Focuses on the Impact of LGBT Discrimination on Real Families

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Charlene Strong fights every day for the fundamental civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans and is a living example of how inequality adversely affects families right now in the United States. She will meet with President Barack Obama at a White House reception on Tuesday, June 22.

What would happen if you were barred from being at the bedside of your loved one, your partner of 10 years, your wife, as she lay dying?  That is exactly what happened to Charlene Strong in 2006 after a flash flood claimed the life of her partner, actress and narrator Kate Fleming in Seattle.  But Charlene's no victim.  She took the fundamental fight for gay and lesbian equality to the Washington state legislature and her voice was instrumental in the passage of that state's landmark domestic partner legislation in 2007 and its subsequent expansion.  These partnerships in Washington state were upheld -- for the first time in U.S. history -- by popular vote with the approval of Referendum 71 last year. Charlene’s continued activism was a very visible and important part of the campaign. She continues the fight on the national stage.

Charlene Strong will meet with President Barack Obama June 22 at a White House reception to talk about issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. The president extended hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners in a memorandum on April 15 and Strong is grateful for these protections. "I want to thank the president and let him know that I am here if he needs my assistance," she states.

“Our lives are valuable and deserve a voice and full inclusion in the discussion of full equality,” Strong says. “My goal is to be that voice -- a voice that reaches out to say that this is the real story, the real pain and the real collateral damage of discrimination.”

The fundamental right for LGBT people to marry is once again in the news. Closing arguments were heard on June 16 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, better known as the Proposition 8 trial and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) as well as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) continue to make headlines.

Charlene Strong has been there -- as an advocate for civil rights and as someone who personally experienced the consequences of discrimination.

“There is real damage because of discrimination and it will continue without full equality,” she relates.  “Anyone today who is told they cannot be by their loved one's side as they die would explode in outrage.”

Strong was appointed to the Washington State Human Rights Commission by Governor Chris Gregoire in 2009 and she is a nationally recognized speaker and advocate for LGBT civil rights in the U.S.  She serves as the spokesperson for the Equal Rights Washington (ERW) Education Fund ( and is a co-producer of the award-winning documentary film, FOR MY WIFE. The film screens in Philadelphia on June 21 and Washington, D.C. on June 24 with Strong in attendance.

About Charlene Strong
Charlene Strong lost her wife, Kate Fleming when flood waters invaded their Seattle home in 2006.  Initially prevented from seeing Kate on her deathbed and unable to make the most rudimentary of arrangements on Kate’s behalf, Charlene has become a tireless advocate for marriage equality and equal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families.  Her testimony was instrumental in the 2007 passage of landmark domestic partnership legislation in Washington state.  Soon after, Strong was appointed by Governor Chris Gregoire to the Washington State Human Rights Commission. In 2009, Strong’s strong voice was vital to the historic passage of Washington state’s Referendum 71, affirming LGBT partner rights for the first time by popular vote.  Taking the fight for equality beyond Washington’s borders, Charlene's story and courage have made her a nationally recognized activist.

About For My Wife
Co-producer Charlene Strong suffered the loss of her partner of 10 years, Kate Fleming in 2006.  Cruel double standards compounded the tragedy.  Trick Dog Films, in this dramatic and award-winning documentary, captures her transformation into a powerful voice of fairness and a courageous face of the LGBT struggle for full equality under the law.  Directed by David Rothmiller, 2008, 73 min.


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Gail Benzler

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