In 2006, Charlene Strong lost her wife of 10 years, Kate Fleming, in a flash flood accident in Seattle, Washington. At the time of Kate’s hospitalization, Charlene was denied the basic right to be by her partner’s side, and was refused dignity and respect following Kate’s passing, as the funeral director dismissed Charlene’s existence in funeral preparations.
Here she is in a clip for the US Census Bureau, telling her story and how the 2010 Census could help gays and lesbians.
It’s no coincidence that Charlene’s surname is “Strong.” Since 2006, she’s transformed her personal tragedy into national victories, encapsulated by the groundbreaking documentary For My Wife … the Making of an Activist for Marriage Equality which chronicles the injustices Charlene faced during her partner’s unexpected death and Charlene’s eventual rise to prominence in LGBT activism. This week, in celebration of the August 30 DVD release, Charlene and Equal Rights Washington will screen the film in Vashon Island and Seattle to educate and enlist Washingtonians in the fight for marriage equality.
In addition to co-producing and starring in For My Wife, Charlene’s emotional testimony before the Washington State Senate in 2007 was the impetus for the passage of the revolutionary Domestic Partnership laws, which prohibit the discrimination and humiliation of Washington LGBT couples and families. The state’s governor, Chris Gregoire, appointed Charlene as Washington Human Rights Commissioner and acknowledged her as she signed the Domestic Partnership rights in to law.
Charlene continues to tirelessly advocate for LGBT rights, whether it’s working with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to plan a national marriage equality tour, screening her documentary across the country, providing her take on all things LGBT on her new blog, or meeting President Obama at the White House LGBT Pride Celebration. Charlene draws strength from her devastating loss in order to advocate on behalf of loving queer couples deserving of the same benefits and rights afforded to straight couples, and will undoubtedly continue to blaze the trail towards equal rights for all.