After the crowded waiting room, it was a relief to enter Inslee’s office, where there was plenty of seating. David Bahar, Inslee’s legislative assistant, was deaf and had an ASL interpreter, so for a little while it was just the four of us: David, the interpreter, Frances, and me. They assured me we had time to wait for Ami before beginning. I said she’d just be a few minutes, but the truth was I had no idea where–or if–she’d found parking or how long she’d be. I explained our mission and our journey, and talked about why we were running behind.
Lucky for me, Ami arrived a few minutes later, just about the time that the representative’s new communications person arrived, too. He said that he always tried to sit in with David, since he was so knowledgeable. I wondered if this was a way to make us feel like we were meeting with someone important, even if it wasn’t Inslee. We rearranged for the best translation vantage point, and got started.
We explained our trip, and got to our talking points. I’ll admit, we did some research and rehearsed them beforehand so we wouldn’t forget any. We talked about inheritance, and how we are unequally taxed for property we inherit from one another. We talked about how we can’t have a family business as far as taxes go. We talked about hospital visitation and medical decision making. We talked about the fact that we don’t get Social Security benefits from one another, and how we can’t claim a non-working spouse as a dependent on our taxes. Ami said, “I’m forced to lie on my taxes. I say I’m a single person when I’m married.”
We didn’t want to draw out the conversation unnecessarily, but we were invested in waiting to see if Inslee would show up. I kept feeling like if we said just the right thing it would make a difference. I couldn’t read David’s reactions to us and what we were asking him to relate to Inslee, but I decided he was on our side because he had cool glasses. I won’t say that conservative people have bad glasses, but I will say that the better your glasses are, the more likely I am to think you vote left.
Sooner or later, David brought up Barney Frank. I hope he didn’t take my reaction personally, because I’m sure the disdain I feel for Frank’s position on the Respect for Marriage Act–and the National Equality March, for that matter–was evident on my face. I tried to explain that his lack of support for the bill was not popular amongst LGBT people. But it was frustrating, because I didn’t have anything specific to quote or point to in order to prove my assertion.
So finally I said, as respectfully as I could, “With all due respect, Mr. Frank doesn’t live in Washington, and isn’t represented by Mr. Inslee.” Barney Frank lives in Massachusetts, where should he choose to marry, he could have state-level benefits. Must be nice.
The conversation started to wind down, and maybe I panicked a little. “Is that Mr. Inslee’s grandson?” I asked, pointing to one of the many pictures of an infant boy in the office. There must be something more to say!
And before David had a chance to answer, in walked the man himself.
He looked a little like Superman, only with grey sideburns. He asked us to call him Jay, and quickly sat down with us, apologizing for being late.
I was stunned for a minute. At this point, I hadn’t expected him to show up. I realized that until he did, I didn’t really believe that he was held up in another meeting. I thought that was an excuse, politics-speak for us not being important enough.
In my next post on our meeting I’ll talk more about what it is to be an ordinary, reasonably informed person meeting with an experienced politician. But for now I’ll just give credit where credit is due. Representative Inslee showed up to meet with us. You don’t have to be a guy in a suit. You don’t have to be a lobbyist. You can be a couple of dykes in jeans, ragged and road worn, and you can talk to the people who make the decisions that affect your life.
If we can do it, so can you.