Homophobia and racism are not the same thing, but they share a common root in prejudice and are sometimes expressed in similar ways: social ostracization, beatings, killings, barriers to work, education, housing and public places.

The intensity of discrimination endured by the various categories of people facing prejudice may not always be the same, but to the individual on the receiving end of the discrimination, it hardly matters whether others have received the same amperage of misery.

Something shared by those who have been discriminated against is the heightened possibility of recognizing and rejecting different forms of prejudice when they see it being inflicted on others. Below are excerpts from speeches given on Feb 8 by three Washington state representatives shortly before the House passed the marriage equality bill. Personal experiences with racism clearly helped these legislators empathize with those facing homophobia, and motivated them to seek equality and justice for all Washingtonians.

Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney (D-Seattle) found parallels between the discrimination she and her family experienced as Mexican-Americans, and the discrimination two of her sons face as gay men.

Preventing gay couples from marring, to me, is a form of social and civil discrimination. And I know that many of you here may have experienced some discrimination in your life. I know my family has.

As part of a farm worker family we were shut out and did not have access to education, health care or housing, and encountered many signs at businesses that said “No dogs or Mexicans allowed“.

My daughter here in this state in high school was told by her teacher that her last name meant “dumb” and “lazy”.

I have two sons that are gay. One of them has been with his partner for 24 years. Both have suffered from harassment and rejection by their peers and by some family members. And I’m going to tell you that this hurt cannot be erased, and some of it will last with them forever.

And I also want to say that the hurt in my heart was the day that my son came home from school and said, “They won’t accept me. Why can’t they accept me? I am a good person. And I am the same person that I was before they knew.”

I am very proud of my children. I am very proud of my two sons. And they deserve the same rights and privileges that their brothers and sisters have. And that has to happen, because we have to have equal rights. And they do not deserve to be harassed or looked at as different in this world.

[cont’d.]

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding