by Cara Gardner and Joel Smith

Many Kinds of Valentines -- SPOKANE -- Valentine's Day is good example of how holidays change with the times. What began as a pagan rite eventually morphed into a Christian-sanctioned holiday (after St. Valentine); and, as is the case with most of our holidays, it has gone on to become a bustling commercialized day of roses, cupids and candy. So it's interesting to see people transforming this Hallmark holiday yet again. Feb. 14 is now also V-Day, a time to protest violence against women. In addition, the American Heart Association took a wise marketing cue from all the pink and red hearts, declaring February national "Heart Healthy" month. Now, add another way the holiday is being reworked: the week of Valentine's Day is now National Freedom To Marry Week. Feb. 12-18 will now also be a time to make a statement about the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to marry legally. The Peace and Justice Action League (PJALS) and a new organization, Inland Northwest Equality, are planning a rally on Feb. 14.

"The Inland Northwest Equality (INE) is a collection of groups and individuals coming together to increase awareness about GLBTQ [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning] justice issues, and one of those issues is the freedom to marry, and we passionately support that," says Brooke Powers, organizer for the INE. The group plans to meet at 4:30 pm on Feb. 14 at the Spokane County Courthouse, where marriage licenses are issued.

"The state Supreme Court will hear two combined cases on March 8 surrounding marriage equality," Powers explains. "Those are historic, and we'll anxiously be waiting to hear the outcomes." In addition, Powers says for the first time in 27 years the Legislature just might pass a bill that adds sexual orientation into the state's anti-discrimination law.

"We came close last year and given the senate majority -- well, it will certainly help," Powers says.

Meanwhile, a quieter form of activism is also at work in the Inland Northwest. Quest Youth Group, a support group for gay, bisexual and questioning young men, has released Quest for Men 2005 calendars, featuring pictures and thoughts from local gay leaders and role models.

"The calendar was put together by young men in our leadership team," says Ryan Oelrich, director of Quest. "They tried to think about how they could make a difference and they acknowledged that there are still some negative stereotypes out there. They asked, 'How do we show people we are gay, but that's not all we are?'"

Quest has sent the calendar out to state and local politicians and other government offices in the hope that it will encourage a broader understanding of homosexuality. -- Cara Gardner

Everybody Hurts -- SPOKANE -- Results from a new study being conducted as part of a workplace educational program for businesses throughout Spokane County suggest that intimate partner violence takes a heavy toll on local business.

Preliminary findings from 768 anonymous employee surveys show that 57 percent of employed men and 64 percent of employed women in Spokane are aware of an intimate partner violence (IPV) incident involving a co-worker. That usually involves harassment, threats and stalking. And 7 percent of employed women and 4 percent of men say they've been IPV victims in the last year.

Perhaps most important to businesses, however, is the finding that 19 percent of women and 7 percent of men surveyed report that IPV had a direct impact on their job, causing them to lose days, report late to work, lose a job or have their partner commit some act of violence in the workplace.

Though the findings themselves don't suggest how businesses might address those statistics, Washington State University's Dr. Christopher Blodgett, who is conducting the research, says that they "clearly demonstrate the stake employers and communities have in addressing IPV-related safety, lost productivity and risk of injury to employees."

The research is being conducted as part of the "Intimate Partner Violence ... It's a Workplace Issue" program now being offered to businesses throughout the county. The program, funded as a national demonstration project by the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health, is the largest of its kind in the nation and offers training, education and other resources to help businesses deal with intimate partner violence among the rank-and-file. -- Joel Smith

For more information, contact the Spokane County Domestic Violence Consortium at 487-6783.

Publication date: 2/10/05

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