By Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writer
MONROE — The idea came to Holly Teige when she was attending a summer parade in Carnation last year.
The Monroe woman saw a float made by the small town’s lesbian and gay community group.
“If Carnation had a group, then Monroe should certainly have one,” Teige, 37, said.
Teige, who is a lesbian, decided to create the Sky Valley Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Alliance that summer. This way, the gay community could find a place where they could belong and find a voice.
At least that’s how the idea began.
The plan was to start slow, but gay issues became the center of attention after an anti-gay ad from a church appeared in Monroe’s weekly newspaper last October. The ad said that being gay was a choice and a sin.
“It was the catalyst that brought attention to the gay community,” Teige said.
Now the group is aiming to advocate for same-sex marriage, she said. To do this, the group is holding a discussion panel at 1 p.m. today at the Monroe Library, 1070 Village Way.
Washington became the seventh state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage, but an opposition group is attempting to put the issue on the November ballot.
Today’s talk is set to feature Teige and Charlene Strong, a Washington State Human Rights commissioner and gay-rights advocate.
The panel aims to show people how they can promote same-sex marriage in the valley, Teige said.
“The area is so much more rural and conservative than downtown Seattle, so promoting and supporting marriage equality requires a different approach than in an urban environment,” Teige said.
The group has met twice per month this year but this is the first discussion panel. It plans to have another one in the future, she said.
The group has 50 members from Everett to Index. The group is not only filled with people who identify themselves as gay or bisexual. There are also members who are straight but believe in equality, she said.
These include family members and church leaders.
One of them is a Monroe United Methodist Church pastor, the Rev. Mike Smith. He has been an active advocate for gay rights for a long time, especially in the past four years when he was at a church in Everett. When he transferred to Monroe on July 1, he joined Teige’s group.
The alliance group will help give the gay community the voice it needs, he said.
He recognizes most of the opposition comes from conservative Christian churches but there has been some movement in the main Protestant branches to recognize the gay community and be more open toward them, he said.
“I think the church’s treatment of gays and lesbians has been shameful and needs to change,” he said. “I think it’s time to welcome them.”
There aren’t that many groups similar to the alliance in Snohomish County, said Tom Blossom, president for the Everett and Snohomish County Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays chapter, a support group for families that educates, supports and advocates for the gay community.
The group is important for gay people because it provides a supportive environment, he said.
“There are a lot of people who are homophobic,” he said. “It’s difficult to be around people who don’t like you because of who you are.”
Teige believes thousands of people in the area are either gay or lesbian, but they are mostly invisible.
“We are like everybody else,” Teige said. “It’s a good thing that we don’t stand out, but we are missing out in raising awareness.”
And by creating a local group, people don’t need to drive to Everett or Seattle to meet other gays or lesbians.
The group also is planning different events as a way to raise awareness and provide information.
One of them is the one-day Sky Valley Pride festival in May at a venue still to be determined.
Teige also hopes to create a float for parades in Seattle, Monroe and even back to Carnation.
“We are going to where it all started,” she said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The Sky Valley GLBTQ Alliance is planning a discussion panel about gay marriage from 1 to 3 p.m. today, at the Monroe Library, 1070 Village Way. Group founder Holly Teige and gay-rights advocate Charlene Strong will hold talks.