The formal announcement will come out tomorrow at a swanky gala in the W Hotel, but Rod Hearn, co-chair of Equal Rights Washington, confirms the board has selected a new executive director. Josh Friedes, who led the campaign to approve R-71 and played a vital role in the Massachusetts marriage equality movement, will replace Connie Watts.
“We will now move forward as quickly as possible on marriage equality, and a huge amount of work will take place to explain that domestic partnerships neither provide us the legal equality or the social dignity that every LGBT person needs and deserves,” Friedes says. Having upheld the state's third domestic partnership bill with a vote last fall, he says, “We can go forward and have very positive, friendly conversations with people of Washington [explaining] that where we are right now is not good enough.”
With Friedes at the helm of the campaign for R-71 last fall, Hearn says, “it was the first time that marriage-like rights have been approved in any state at the ballot box.” Friedes has also helped push for several winning bills in the state legislature—including three domestic partnership bills over three years and an anti-bullying bill this week—while serving as a strategist and spokesman for the group. ERW has built a statewide army of volunteers, clergy support, widespread nonprofit backing, and a massive base of donors. The Approve R-71 campaign, under Friedes, raised over $2 million.
On his plate now: Pushing bills next year in the legislature that provide funding for anti-bullying education, money for training health care workers to be sensitive to the needs of older LGBT residents, and changes to the law so that “medically necessary care is provided to transgender Washingtonians,” Friedes says.