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White House Holds LGBT Northwest Youth Roundtable

by Shaun Knittel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Oct 1, 2012

On September 19, at the invitation of Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, four Northwest LGBT leaders participated in an LGBT policy roundtable, took a tour of the White House and attended an end-of-summer BBQ reception in Washington, D.C. Queer Youth Space's Kyle Rapiñan represented Seattle for his work with the youth-led organization that promotes cultural arts and activism, health and wellness, and research, education, and employment for queer youth.

Other leaders in the delegation included Josh Parrish of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, Heather Purser of the Suquamish Tribe Washington, and Jamee Greer, a well-known LGBT rights activist from Montana.

"Each of these young leaders inspires change by working with their local communities -- their dedication to and passion for full LGBTQ equality is inspiring," said Pride Foundation Executive Director Kris Hermanns.

The Pride Foundation was asked by the White House to suggest people who were leading change in their LGBTQ communities to send to the event.

Rapiñan said he felt "privileged and lucky" to represent the needs of Seattle residents. While in D.C., the young activist met with cutting-edge legal organizers the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Center for Lesbian Rights to "discuss the state of the Queer movement and how we can all shift our movement towards a more just and equitable community."

"It’s an incredible honor and very humbling to be chosen for something like this when there are so many qualified LGBTQ Montanans working every day for equal treatment under the law, and I couldn’t even think of this sort of opportunity happening without their help, including from the folks at Pride Foundation," echoed Montana LGBT rights activist Greer.

Greer was the lead organizer behind the passage of the 2010 Missoula, Montana, equality ordinance, which protects all Missoula residents from discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Jamee’s work on non-discrimination ordinances in Missoula, Helena, and Bozeman, and his steadfast advocacy for all the underdogs in our society made him a clear choice for this invitation," said Hermanns.

According to the Boise Weekly, the roundtable focused on community outreach, the repeal of the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy and the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The Vice President and Dr. Biden hosted the End of Summer BBQ at the Vice President’s residence with the emerging young leaders as their guests. According to the Obama Administration’s Associate Director of Public Engagement Gautam Raghaven, the youth were joined by senior Obama Administration officials, leaders of national LGBT organizations and campus and community leaders from across the country.

"Guests at the event represented tremendous diversity and talent within the LGBT community," wrote Raghaven on the official White House blog. "They included students and community organizers, advocates and artists, and veterans -- all committed to the pursuit of equality, justice and dignity for LGBT people."

In welcoming guests to the residence, Dr. Biden took a moment to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and thanked all our brave young men and women in uniform and their families for their service. In his remarks, the Vice President spoke to his own commitment to civil rights and paid tribute to the many advocates and heroes who have helped pave the way towards a more perfect union.

While at the residence, guests also had the opportunity to view several panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which were provided by The NAMES Project Foundation. Earlier this year, a section of the Quilt was put on display in the East Wing of the White House, and Dr. Biden also viewed several panels of the Quilt at the National Building Museum.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.


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