Section One

April 29, 2005

Volume 33,
Issue 17

Sat, Feb 27, 2016


Equality in the balance
Equality in the balance
After three decades, Washington almost added sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination policy.

Wondering what went on behind the scenes in Olympia? Attend the ERW Town Hall this Thursday, May 5, to meet the movers and shakers and find out what went on that got us very close, but not close enough, to victory. We also want to hear from you at this event. The event is from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center (1115 E. Pike St. in Seattle).

Rep. Ed Murray introduced HB 1515, the Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination Bill, as he has introduced similar legislation the past 10 years. This year, things looked different. The Democrats had a majority in both houses and the governor’s office — and they promised to make it a priority.

The bill was voted out of committee and then approved on the House floor early in the session. It received strong bipartisan support with a vote of 61-37, a solid win for fairness.

On to the Senate. Credible, articulate business and community leaders testified to the importance of this bill during the committee hearings, and the committee passed it to the floor for a vote. But the Republican leadership was determined to keep the bill from a vote. With the help of two Democrats, Sheldon and Hargrove, the Republicans voted to send the bill to another, unrelated committee, whose membership were hostile to the bill. Much of the media declared HB 1515 dead.

Equal Rights Washington knew differently, and so our supporters. While ERW lobbyists, Rep. Ed Murray, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Gov. Christine Gregoire and others worked behind the scenes to persuade their colleagues to reconsider this bill, Equal Rights Washington supporters called, e-mailed, and wrote letters to their State Senators, letting them know that we were counting on them to do the right thing. And that we were watching.

In a dramatic, last-minute effort, the Senate Democrats rescued the bill from committee and brought it to the floor for a vote on April 21. After an hour of impassioned debate, the Senate voted. That, in itself, was a landmark occasion, as similar bills had never before made it to a Senate vote. (You can hear the full testimony at

The vote was close, 25-24, and it fell the wrong way. Bill Finkbeiner, Senate Minority Leader, instructed every Republican Senator to vote no, and Democrats Sheldon and Hargrove joined them.

To see how each Senator voted, visit


For another year, LGBT residents of Washington state remain unprotected from discrimination in housing, lending, and employment. That is neither fair nor acceptable.

ERW and our supporters are determined to educate voters and pressure lawmakers to ensure that next year at this time, all Washingtonians are protected from discrimination. Ed Murray will introduce the anti-discrimination bill in the 2006 legislative session. We intend to see that both houses pass it, and the governor will sign it.

Working together, we can make fairness a reality. Come to the ERW Town Hall meeting this Thursday, May 5, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center (1115 E. Pike St.) to learn more about what happened this year, hear strategies for going forward, and help shape the future of equality in our state.

Join the ERW e-mail list to receive timely announcements about issues that affect the LGBT community, and to learn how you can make a difference. Visit to sign up.

Educate friends and family around the state on the issues of discrimination, and make sure they know how their Senators voted. Enlist them in our efforts to pass the legislation next year.


Complicating the efforts to pass HB 1515 was the report of Microsoft withdrawing its support. In the April 21 issue, The Stranger reported that Microsoft withdrew support for the bill after pressure from a religious leader. Microsoft has supported similar legislation for more than a decade, and it incorporated non-discrimination policies and domestic partner benefits long before many companies considered either action. The LGBT community in Washington has considered Microsoft a corporate ally.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claims the decision to withdraw support from HB 1515 was made before the company met with a religious leader. He alleges that Microsoft has decided to narrow its legislative focus to support only legislation that meets business goals.

ERW is dismayed that Microsoft has withdrawn its support and is concerned that this may lead to a further weakening of Microsoft and other companies’ support for LGBT equality and fairness. Further, testimony before the Senate committee made it clear that a statewide anti-discrimination policy is essential to promote a positive business climate. This legislation is directly related to the business interests of employers in our state.

ERW has asked Microsoft to send a representative to the town hall meeting on May 5 to address the community’s concerns. Additionally, we call on the company to endorse the anti-discrimination measure when it is introduced in the 2006 legislative session. And because many Washingtonians remain unprotected until the measure passes, ERW urges Microsoft to lobby Eastside county councils to encourage local governments to end discrimination in their communities.

Leslie Robinson

Madelyn Arnold

Paula Martinac