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'It's About Changing Culture': LGBT Commissioner On Creating True Equity In Seattle

Steven, left, and Ed Malick were both married to women before coming out as gay.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery
Steven, left, and Ed Malick were both married to women before coming out as gay.

The Supreme Court ruling effectively legalizing same sex marriage nationwide has been seen as a huge victory for the lesbian, gay and transgender community.

But that doesn't mean LGBT people automatically have equal rights and protections - even in Washington state, where some equal protection laws have been on the books since 2006.

It's not necessarily just about changing laws, says Gunner Scott, commissioner on the city of Seattle's LGBT Commission and the program director at the Seattle-based Pride Foundation.

Scott told KUOW’s Jeannie Yandel that it’s about changing the culture. 

For instance, Scott described the issues present when he and his husband bought a house recently.

“House buying is complicated anyways, but if you add on the fact that both of us are transgender, which means that we've had name changes, which means we have to worry is this going to pop up in our credit report and what's the reaction going to be of the mortgage officer or the Realtor or whoever is looking at that information,” Scott said.

Then there’s how the neighbors will react. “Maybe they could handle us being gay, but can they handle us being transgender?” he said. “And so it's just a lot to have to worry about all the time. It really limits your life in some ways.”

Scott acknowledged that Seattle has been a leader on LGBT rights, noting that the first gay rights ordinance was passed in 1983. Among other signs of hope, he also pointed to the election of an openly gay mayor and the acceptance of his husband as the city’s first gentleman. 

And he noted the Seattle Police Department has reached out to the LGBT community to develop a policy on how to treat transgender victims of crime and transgender arrestees.

But he said there’s still room to improve. He pointed to the collection of population data – important in deciding how local governments spend.

“We are excluding LGBT people, which is 4.8 percent of the population of Seattle, which is approximately 31,000, and this is just adults,” he said. “You're basically saying we're going to exclude the neighborhood of Queen Anne.”