Strong began her advocacy career in 2006. In December of that year, Strong's partner of nine years, Kate Fleming, died suddenly when a flash flood trapped her inside her Madison Valley, Seattle, basement recording studio during the Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm. Arriving at the hospital, Strong was initially prevented from joining Fleming, despite their long partnership, because Washington State did not recognize domestic partners.
In January 2007, she testified before the Washington State Senate Committee in support of a bill creating a statewide Domestic Partnership Registry. In April 2007, she stood beside Governor Christine Gregoire as that domestic partnership bill was signed into law. The Governor opened her remarks by retelling Strong's story. In February 2009, Gregoire appointed Strong to the Washington State Human Rights Commission. Strong's current term, her second, expires in 2017.
Strong is also a co-producer of the film For My Wife..., which tells the story of how Strong became an advocate for equality following Fleming's death. The film won the Best Documentary prize at the 2008 Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
Charlene D. Strong is an American civil rights advocate and member of the Washington State Human Rights Commission. Strong began her advocacy career in 2006. In December of that year, Strong's partner of nine years, Kate Fleming, died suddenly when a flash flood trapped her inside her Madison Valley, Seattle, basement recording studio during the Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm. Arriving at the hospital, Strong was initially prevented from joining Fleming, despite their long partnership, because Washington State did not recognize domestic partners.
Strong works closely with Equal Rights Washington, and has endowed a fellowship at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C.
Kathryn Ann "Kate" Fleming (October 6, 1965 – December 14, 2006) was an American actress, artist, singer, and award-winning audiobook narrator and producer. She was the owner and executive producer at Cedar House Audio, an audio production company specializing in spoken word that is located in Seattle, Washington, United States.
Fleming was born in Arlington, Virginia in 1965. She grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1987 (Bachelor of Arts, Religion). Fleming studied at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky, and was an alumna of the 1987/1988 Apprentice Company. After a stint as a professional actor, she branched into audiobooks in the mid-1990s. Fleming recorded well over 200 titles, many under the stage name Anna Fields.
In 2004, Fleming won the Audie Award for Unabridged Fiction for her performance of Ruth Ozeki's All Over Creation. In a July 1, 2005, interview with the William & Mary Alumni Association, Fleming noted several of her favorite narration projects: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates, Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh, and "any title" by Louise Erdrich. In addition to her work on audiobooks, she also narrated the Military Channel's six-episode series Navy Seals, which chronicled the six-month basic training process for US Navy Seals in 2007. She also provided the voice of Princess Daisy in Mario Tennis.
Fleming died when a flash flood trapped her inside her Madison Valley basement studio during the Hanukkah Eve wind storm of 2006. She is survived by her wife and partner of nine years, Charlene Strong. At the hospital, Strong was denied access to see Fleming until permission was granted by an out-of-state relative. The experience led Strong to advocate for legislation that was eventually passed as Washington's Domestic Partnership Law.
After Fleming's death, the City of Seattle commissioned a report to determine the cause of flash flooding in Fleming's neighborhood. As of 2013, the house where Fleming died had been replaced by a garden, and the city has completed a stormwater project in the neighborhood. The project features a reservoir capable of holding excess storm runoff when the rest of the system is over capacity. A memorial at the site is inscribed with words that Fleming would say before going on stage as an actress: "Be a light. Be a flame. Be a beacon."
For My Wife
Actors: Charlene Strong
Directors: David Rothmiller
Studio: Cinema Libre Studio
DVD Release Date: August 31, 2010
Run Time: 60 minutes
Amazon Kindle: For My Wife
"for my wife..." is a culturally important documentary film that brings reason and substantive merit to the national dialogue on marriage equality. Faced with tragedy and humiliating discrimination at her partner's deathbed, Charlene Strong rose to prominence as an advocate for LGBT equality. Her journey inspires on a deep level, bringing a sense of triumph through unimaginable sorrow.
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