Joe Mirabella

Hanging Out with Billionaires

Filed By Joe Mirabella | April 22, 2011 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Bill Gates, LGBT

I just got home from a fundraiser for a fantastic nonprofit in Washington state, called the Washington Bus. vote-bot.pngI'm on their c3 Board of Directors, because I strongly believe in their mission to engage young people in the political process. The Bus helps young people do everything from voting, to door knocking, to even running for office. Last election season the Bus helped elect the youngest member of the Washington State Legislature, Joe Fitzgibbon.

They were also incredibly important allies during the Approve 71 campaign when we won an expansion of lesbian and gay domestic partnership rights for the first time in United States history at the ballot box. I am in love with the Bus.

Tonight's fundraiser was an incredible experience. It was in a place called Medina, Washington, which is a town 15 minutes from my front door in Seattle, and billions of dollars away. The home neighbored Bill Gates's home just to give you an idea.

To get to the event we parked our cars in a school nearby. Those of us who were early huddled about and chatted. "Have you met Bill Gates, Sr?" My friend asked.

"Hello Mr. and Mrs. Gates. Very nice to meet you." I meant it too. The Gates family is incredibly generous with their time and support for progressive causes. Last year Bill Gates, Sr., fought hard for an initiative that would have created an income tax for people who make more than $250,000 per year in Washington. He even appeared in a commercial where he was dunked in a dunk-tank. Sadly, the bill did not pass and our state is suffering for it now.

A large gray passenger van pulled up to where we stood to drive us up to our host's home. I rode with Mr. and Mrs. Gates and other people I did not know. The person I was sitting next to joked, "I wish we were getting a tour of who lives where," as we drove through the neighborhood of extraordinary homes. Others in the car talked about global excursions. I tweeted, "I'm about to go talk to some millionaires and billionaires about LGBT people."

Upon arrival at the home we were greeted by modern art sculptures by artists I have only seen at world class museums and sculpture gardens. But that was just the beginning.

Once inside we were invited to explore the art collection. The home was anchored by an atrium style gallery filled with world class art - Picasso, Chuck Close, Andy Warhol - pieces so extraordinary it was breath taking. The room, I was told, was temperature and humidity controlled to protect the art. "Preservation is a science," the guide said.

I mingled and tried to play cool, "Just pretend this is normal," I said to myself. "You go to mansions all the time. Constantly," I lied to myself. I was trying to give myself a pep talk for a speech I was about to give. "Just look Chuck Close in the eye," I said to myself, "You know him," I thought as I gazed at three giant self portraits of Chuck Close composed of googly eye-like pixels.

Senator Patty Murray was there. She gave a quick speech about how important the Bus was to her very narrow victory and presented our host with a gift of art books.

After the senator spoke, she scooted out so she didn't get to hear me talk about LGBT people in front of this room of people who seriously changed the world in their lifetime. But that doesn't matter, because these incredibly influential people heard me.

I told Chuck Close paintings and billionaires about how important young people are to lgbt equality. They were there for us in Washington when we won domestic partnerships. But they were also there to help elect Parry Murray. I told them we need marriage in Washington, but this isn't just about marriage. It is about my friend in Texas who found out her boss wanted to fire her because she is transsexual. The room gasped when I told them that. I heard someone say, "that's terrible."

"Washington state's elected officials can vote on legislation that will make that impossible. It is called ENDA," I said, "And Washington state and the United States can be a beacon of hope to people around the world, like in Uganda," Chuck Close appeared to nod, "If I gave this speech in Uganda I would not make it home alive. They would murder me for being gay. It is that bad, but you people can help by supporting efforts to get young people to participate in the political process."

I then had the honor of introducing a young inspiring individual named Sera Day. Her and other Bus volunteers give me great hope for our future. They get it. They understand why LGBT people matter, and now I hope a few billionaires get it too.

img Washington Bus's press room

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I'd have been scared out of my skin. I'm so proud of you for all you do in Washington, Joe.

From cornfield to hanging out with millionaires and billionaires not to shabby Joe.

Truth to power, and effectively too? Can't do any better than that!