Remembering Life-Long Activist Marcy Westerling
Back in the baddest of the bad old days, we who looked for wisdom, political strategy, and grace in the face of persistent right-wing attacks always had Marcy Westerling to lean on. It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the passing of Marcy Westerling—a dear friend, teacher, and colleague of the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Marcy’s lifelong project to build community and political strength amongst people living in rural areas, first through the Columbia County Women’s Resource Center and later through the ROP and its Human Dignity network, became a national model, featured in training videos, magazine and journal articles, web sites, blogs, and radio broadcasts.
In 1992, Marcy founded the Rural Organizing Project (ROP) and worked with the National LGBTQ Task Force staff from the Fight the Right Project to defeat numerous ballot initiatives that would have harmed LGBTQ people in Oregon.
From her base at the ROP, Marcy organized a network of 52 rurally-based human dignity groups that campaigned against Oregon’s 1992 ballot measure 9, resisting in small towns a dangerously divisive and homophobic proposal. Ballot measure 9, an ugly, slanderous, and vicious anti-LGBTQ proposed constitutional amendment, sought to prohibit uses of public funding “to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism. All levels of government, including public education systems, must assist in setting a standard for Oregon’s youth which recognizes that these behaviors are abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse and they are to be discouraged and avoided.” Oregon voters defeated the measure by a 12% margin.
In 1993, Marcy contributed two articles to the National LGBTQ Task Force’s publication for the Fight the Right Action Kit, “An Anecdotal Study in Rural Organizing” and “Breaking the Isolation: Keeping Leadership Vibrant.”
Marcy brought curiosity, compassion and deep kindness to the on-the-ground work of resisting right-wing incursions and refuting right-wing slander against LGBTQ people and our families. Marcy passed on June 10 in Portland, Oregon. May she rest in power knowing that her legacy of organizing with muscle, verve, and much heart lives on in all whom she trained, taught and mentored.
A deeply self-reflective person, her final project is a personal blog, Livingly Dying: Notes & Essays on Daily Life With Terminal Cancer. To learn more about this remarkable colleague in our movement, visit her blog here: www.livinglydying.com
By Sue Hyde, National LGBTQ Task Force’s Director of The National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change