Update: Upon request of the author, the postscript has been removed from this letter.
Hello Clint Didier, my name is Marisol Lister.
In February of this year, my family and I had the pleasure of moving to Pasco after living in Kennewick. I was eager and hopeful, gearing up to watch the Franklin County Commissioners meet on June 30, 2020 because I had heard that the commissioners committed to make COVID messaging available in Spanish. This matters: At least half of Franklin County and just over 1/6th of the Richland population primarily speaks a language other than English. We have a significant Latinx population, and there are over 20 different languages spoken between our two counties (Census 2010). Providing essential public health information that is easily accessible to those you serve should be a priority to the State Department of Health, the local Board of Health, Commissioners, and the Health District.
While you are eager to hold the DOH accountable for their lack of translation in official messaging, I do not sense the same fervor for holding the Health District to the same level of accountability. Recently, I received press releases from our Health District announcing new COVID-19 testing sites across Tri-Cities. Upon asking when this press release would be available in Spanish, I was informed the Benton and Franklin Health District does not have the capacity to provide translated materials for most of their publications. You may or may not be aware, but the translation of health resources is a serious job, which requires certification in the State of Washington. Failing to provide health-pertinent information to your constituents in a language that is accessible to them is nothing short of neglect—especially during a pandemic.
In addition, I was disappointed to learn that you used your time to censure the Health District’s choice to affirm the LGBTQ+ community during PRIDE month. Recognizing both the existence and ongoing struggle for human rights and dignity of your LGBTQ+ constituents is not a political statement, but rather, a moral imperative. In your dismissal of our existence, you are choosing to condemn an entire portion of your constituents to the margins because of who we are and whom we love. It is dehumanizing and violent to provide healthcare access and information to only those who live or love like you. Let this be a reminder that, as an elected official, you work for ALL of us: Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Queer, Non-Binary or gender non-conforming residents of Franklin County—regardless of creed, color, language spoken, country of origin, or whether or not we voted for you. It is your duty to uphold the Washington Law Against Discrimination, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of public accommodation (RCW 49.60).
After erasing your local LGBTQ+ community, you made a point to let us all know that you believe it to be your business, and that of the health districts, to tell your constituents when to procreate. Yet your claims to be pro-life fall flat, considering your heavily publicized choice to go against the Governor’s orders against a pandemic that is disproportionately devastating our counties.
Your behavior tells me you place more value in the abstract thought of human life than the very real lives at stake in our county. Your time would be better spent directing the Health District to allocate funds toward hiring a certified translator fluent in at least some of the languages spoken by Tri-Cities residents. Instead, you’re denying LGBTQ+ and non-English speaking constituents the same right to public health information that you take for granted and threatening to impose your outdated religious beliefs on our reproductive systems.
You owe the community an apology, and your hate isn’t welcome here. You represent all of us, not just an extremist ideology that wants to move back in time. We are here, this is our home, and we are part of your community whether you like it or not.
Philanthropy Officer at Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho and Pasco resident.