Marge Ballack – Activism

“If we don’t do it, by gosh, who will?”

I didn’t see a lot of political things [for gay rights] going on during [the 1970s]. I did other political things for college. When I thought there was something that was inequitable about how a group was being treated, I got involved. [I] was usually the one standing up on the podium holding a blow horn. Spokane Falls [Community College] and Spokane Community College had a situation—I guess that was later, in the ‘80s—where the teachers’ contracts hadn’t been ratified in over 10 years. They hadn’t had any increases in pay, or any benefits, or anything like that in over 10 years. The teachers were going to strike. Well, I was in a program where, if you lost 3 days—it didn’t matter for what—you had to start taking those courses over again. That would have started affected all of us. So, I started putting up ditto sheets, handing them out, canceled classes, and pooled a rally. Their contract was ratified soon after that.

I think that [gay people aren’t involved in politics because] they are afraid of being outed. That is still a fear. I don’t know what other explanation there could be. I get tired [of activism,] but, if we don’t do it, by gosh, who will? Who is going to set the ball rolling, if not people of our generation? We’ve already been beat up, and knocked down, and shot at, and had knives pulled on us. We don’t want that to happen to young people. Not at all. And if we’re not there to set the example, then who is going to lead you down a healthy path?

Here’s the thing: I think if we were raised in an atmosphere where our parents or our grandparents saw an injustice and took action against that, then we were raised to [not] sit back on your laurels and watch things happen. “Get involved and change it. If you don’t like it, change it.” That is kind of how I was raised.

I think actually it was Bonnie [Aspen] and Willow [Williams who] were asked first [to join the ACLU lawsuit to challenge Washington’s DOMA]. They said they didn’t want to be part of that. Virginia DeLeon [a reporter with the Spokesman Review had] contacted them or interviewed them. I think the ACLU contacted Virginia DeLeon. [DeLeon] had interviewed us as well. [She said,] “Maybe Marge and Diane will do it.” [The ACLU] called up and said, “It’s between you and another couple. And they declined to participate.” So, we won by default.

Once you’re in the paper, the front page of the paper, it’s like, “There is no place to hide, if you wanted to.” You just have to take it as it comes. Whatever people want to say, if they have a notion to bring it up, they do.

In our lawsuit, all of the plaintiffs had been married somewhere else. That was the basis for our lawsuit. We were married elsewhere and we want our marriage recognized in the State [of Washington]. When we got married in Canada, we assumed that someday it would be recognized in our state.


Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson in December 2006, held at the Northwest Museum for Arts and Culture.