Ed Murray was inaugurated as Seattle’s mayor yesterday, the first LGBT person to claim such a high political post in Washington state. As a previous state representative and then state senator, Murray has worked for LGBT rights for decades, successfully coordinating the passage of an anti-discrimination law in employment as well as the passage in 2012 of an equal marriage law. He and his partner Michael Shiosaki, who have been together for 22 years, were just married five months ago.
Ed is a classic example of a social justice advocate who knows how to pragmatically work in the legislative trenches and build coalitions, finding ways to position himself so that others need his help and then coaxing them along to also help LGBT causes. His early work, under his legislative mentor Cal Anderson, was documented in the closing chapter of the original 2003 version of Gay Seattle; his latest work was detailed in the introduction to the 2013 paperback edition.
In an inaugural day filled with symbolic events — including a breakfast with homeless women and children and a racism workshop with his staff — the one that particularly caught my eye was his decision to attend Mass at the Seattle University chapel. Ed is a Catholic and the SU chapel is often his choice for worship, but as a Catholic institution, SU forbids any same-sex marriages in the chapel. When Ed and Michael married, they had to hold the ceremony in a nearby Episcopal cathedral.
Ed’s decision symbolically echoed one that had been made by Cal Anderson more than two decades earlier in the 1990s. For years, Cal had worked to pass the anti-discrimination bills that Ed would eventually pass. At first, he had the support of the social-justice-minded Seattle archbishop, Raymond Hunthausen. But when the Vatican cracked down on Hunthausen and eventually replaced him with far more doctrinally minded archbishops, the local Catholic Church withdrew its support for the anti-discrimination bills — to both Cal’s and Ed’s dismay. But in a startling symbolic statement, when he died of AIDS, Cal — who was not Catholic — requested burial from the Catholic Archdiocese’s cathedral, St. James. What amounted to a state funeral attended by government and religious figures as well as hundreds of citizens made a dramatic statement about the dignity of LGBT individuals in the face of homophobia. (Click for excerpts from “On Catholic Hill” in Gay Seattle)
Attending Mass at SU gives a good indication that Mayor Murray intends to insist upon LGBT inclusion and recognition and dignity — even amid doctrinal rejection.