Politics
5:00 am
Fri July 26, 2013

A Leading Question: Ed Murray's Approach to Winning Gay Rights

Editor's note: KPLU has asked all nine candidates in the Seattle mayoral race to tell us about a time when his or her leadership skills were put to the test. One candidate's answer follows.

Ed Murray’s Capitol Hill office is on the same block as the Gay City LGBT library. Inside hangs a sign that says "March with Ed in Pride."

Murray wants to be Seattle’s first openly gay mayor. So maybe it won’t surprise you that many of his leadership moments have to do with securing gay and lesbian rights after many setbacks. Take 2005, for example.


Murray and like-minded legislators had, after decades, managed to move a civil rights bill for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people out of the House and into the Senate.

Now, if only he could get Republican Senator Bill Finkbeiner to vote yes.

`Very, very tense moment'

"Everything was hanging in the balance, it was a very, very tense moment," Murray said. "And he voted no, so we lost the vote by one vote."

But Murray says a "no" vote isn’t necessarily a "no" vote forever.

"You’ve got to build your way toward victory," Murray said. "And sometimes building your way toward victory means losing, and not getting angry, and turning around and trying to change the minds of the people who just voted against you."

That’s what he did. The next year, Finkbeiner voted yes and the law passed.

Bringing people around

In his time in Olympia, Murray watched legislators vote for the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) banning same-sex marriage in 1998 and then move all the way to legalizing it last year. He helped bring his colleagues around by talking with them and marshaling outside support.

He remembers being in his Olympia office with his partner Michael Shiosaki, and Senator Mary Margaret Haugen walked in to say she was going to cast the deciding vote.

"And that was a very emotional moment between the three of us, because she had moved from supporting DOMA, voting for DOMA, to actually voting for marriage equality," Murray said.

Why mayor?

So why jump to the mayor’s office? Murray says he thinks he could run the city more collaboratively. He’s come under some scrutiny, though. A Seattle Times story raised questions about a job he got at the University of Washington. He says it’s no conflict of interest and he cleared it with the ethics board.

As the Aug. 6th primary approaches, Murray has another date in his head as well – Aug. 10th. That’s when he and his partner will tie the knot - something they're now able to do legally in no small part because of Murray's efforts.