In December 2006, a torrential rainstorm hit Seattle. Tragic circumstances found Kate Fleming, a celebrated recording artist, trapped in her basement studio. Her spouse of nine years, Charlene Strong, returned home to find Kate sealed behind the studio door as the waters rose. Charleneâ€™s efforts to free Kate ended when the water reached the ceiling level.
But Charleneâ€™s nightmare did not end once the firemen retrieved Kateâ€™s body and transferred her to the ICU of a nearby hospital. Emergency room staff barred Charlene from entry to be with Kate, as she lay dying. A â€œblood relativeâ€ was needed to grant the necessary permission. Precious time was lost as Charlene made frantic phone calls to Kateâ€™s family. Kate died that night, minutes after Charlene was finally given that permission.
After facing this loss and the humiliation of a funeral directorâ€™s bigotry, Charlene decided to take a stand. She contacted members of Washingtonâ€™s legislature, who at that time were debating Domestic Partnership rights, a cause that had failed in years past.
Charlene Strongâ€™s dramatic congressional testimony is credited in the billâ€™s passage. This event put Charlene on a new path, that of â€œactivistâ€, her cause â€“ Marriage Equality for Lesbian and Gay Americans who lack the most basic of legal protections.
Her story is one of courage and determination. It is one that inspires the activist in all of us, as it asks the soul-searching question: What would you do?