Friday
January 27, 2006
SGN.org
Volume 34
Issue 04
 
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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

 

 



VICTORY IN OLYMPIA!!!
VICTORY IN OLYMPIA!!!
Anderson-Murray LGBT Civil Rights Bill passes Senate 25-23

As we go to press the SGN has learned that theWashington State LGBT Civil Rights Bill has passed.
Congratulations to everyone on this 30 year fight! Complete coverage next week.

Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill likely to pass on Friday

Senate committee sends bill to Senate floor

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

After three decades, the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill (HB 2661), which would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, looked likely to pass the Senate on Friday. Gov. Christine Gregoire has said she will sign the bill into law.

The Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Consumer Protection Committee voted 7 - 3 to pass the bill out of committee on Tuesday. According to Committee Chairperson Sen. Darlene Fairley (D - Lake Forrest Park), the crowded hearing room was evenly split between those who opposed the measure (51) and those who favored its passage (48).

The committee members heard testimony from a dozen people who represented viewpoints on both sides of the issue. Those testifying against the measure, believed the bill would create a special status for Gays, would be bad for business or is contrary to their view of social norms.

"There must be a reason that it has been rejected and I urge you to reject it once again," said Bob Higley, a lobbyist for the anti-Gay Faith and Freedom Network. "The homosexual agenda is being advanced across our country in many different ways and this is a movement also to advance the homosexual agenda here."

Alex Rowland of Westgate Chappell in Edmonds agreed. "I would also like to ask the Senate to reject this bill, because it creates a new class of specially protected people based solely on behavior choices. The implications of& creating sexual orientation as a suspect class are far reaching," he said. "Granting protected status strengthens the argument that homosexuals are a suspect class under our federal and state constitutions. This status would mean that all laws affecting homosexuals as a class will be subject to strict scrutiny."

However, several people testified the bill would help to create a more productive work environment, send the message that Washington is a tolerant state and that sexual orientation is not a choice.

"We don't discriminate against our workers and we haven't done so since 1978 - as it relates to sexual orientation. Why would we do that as a business? Because, it makes sense," said Doug Sanborn, corporate relations manager for the Coors Brewing Company. "We won't tolerate discrimination of any kind within in our business and, because of that, we have had people who have been able to be promoted and work effectively to grow as a community within our organization. That is one of our core values at Coors. We value all of our people. Our people are actually one of our best assets."

Coors is not alone. Recently, several major companies, including Boeing, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and Nike sent a letter in support of the bill to Gregoire and the leaders of both party's in the House and Senate.

Bishop Vincent Warner of the Episcopal Church of Western Washington said he testified for the legislation in Olympia over 10 years ago and urged for the passage of the measure. "Friends of mine have died waiting for this bill to be passed and I would hope that we might respect the dignity of all people and work for justice and peace," he said. "From my perspective, there are no second class citizens in this state. That is one of the reasons that I am proud to be a part of this state. So, I would urge that this [committee] not only pass it, but pass it enthusiastically and move [it] toward the Senate [floor]."

President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, James Kelly, who is African American, evoked the words of the slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: A threat to justice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.

"I am here to say, basically, that we have talked long enough about ending discrimination, bigotry and bias in our country and in our state," said Kelly. "Now is time to write a new chapter in this law of equal protection and equal opportunity for all."

If passed, the measure would add sexual orientation, the definition of which includes gender identity and expression, to State law, which already prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability, religion, marital status and other factors. However, small businesses with eight or fewer employees, private clubs and religious groups are exempt. The Washington State Human Rights Commission would be charged with investigating any reports of discrimination.

Jerry Hebert, a Human Rights Commissioner, told the Senate committee that the Commission "enthusiastically support this bills passage" and "believe[d] that it is long overdue that [the Commission] be able to protect the citizens of Washington State in their entirety."

The bill was first introduced in 1976. Cal Anderson, Washington's first openly Gay legislator, sponsored the bill for eight years in the House and, later, in the Senate. State Rep. Ed Murray (D - Seattle) has carried the torch every year since Anderson's death from complications related to AIDS in 1995.

Currently, sixteen states have passed similar laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. Murray told the Senate committee on Tuesday it was important to follow their lead. "It is time to send the message that this is a state that is tolerant," he said. "I make this appeal to you as someone who has worked with you over the years, as someone who is your colleague, as a native son of this state and as a Gay man."

Murray provided four examples of why the bill was needed.

A man named Robert had a job for three years and always received good recommendations, but lost his job when he came out to his employer about his sexual orientation.

Candy and her partner, who live in rural Washington, could not find a landlord who would rent to them because of their sexual orientation.

A 16 year old boy from Yakima, who is not Gay, was called "filthy and derogatory terms" by a member of a landlord association while walking the halls of the Legislature.

Gabi, a resident of Olympia, lost her son to suicide because of the discrimination he experienced.

On Monday, January 23rd, nearly 2000 people gathered on the Capitol steps for a rally in support of the proposed legislation - many of whom had similar stories to tell. The Religious Coalition for Equality (RCE) and Equal Rights Washington (ERW) had partnered to put on the event, which included advocacy workshops and meetings with legislators. Murray, Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) and State Rep. Fred Jarrett (R-Mercer Island) had addressed the crowd.

The state House had passed the bill 61-37 last year. Six Republicans joined 55 Democrats to pass the measure. However, the bill failed by a single vote in the Senate. Sen. Bill Finkbeiner (R-Kirkland), who voted against the legislation last year, said he would support the bill this year.

"Seeing a lot of opposition to this bill sort of opened my eyes to the reality that there is an unhealthy level of discrimination that exists in attitudes the people had in opposing the bill. So, that was a big reason," Finkbeiner had told the SGN recently. "The other reason is that - to some degree - this issue had been used as a political football by both parties to firm up their base. I think that is really unfortunate. I didn't want to be a part of that anymore."

Senate Republicans enjoyed a one-vote edge last year, because Democrats Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) and Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) joined them in voting to defeat the measure. Finkbeiner's decision theoretically gives the Democrats the one vote they need to pass the bill out of the Senate.

The bill faces additional hurdles from those who may seek to repeal the measure through an initiative or referendum. Democrats have not attached an emergency clause to the bill, which leaves it open to a possible repeal effort. Initiatives require about 225,000 voter signatures to quality for the ballot, but a referendum would require haft of that.

"Maybe the best thing in the world is for this bill to pass, because& we won't have to see it for 31 years, because it is going to come before the people and we are going to let you know what the polls say when the people vote," Rev. Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church warned the Senate committee during his testimony on Tuesday.

A recent poll by ERW found that 61 percent of Washington residents support nondiscrimination legislation that includes Gays and Lesbians. Lake Research Partners polled 600 voters and said the results carry a statistical margin of error of 4.9 percent.

Hutcherson also announced on Tuesday his stock buy-and-dump scheme aimed at driving down the stock prices of companies who support the measure. He is urging supporters to buy one or two shares of stock and, then, sell it on May 1.

Hutcherson had threatened to boycott Microsoft last year and claims that the company agreed to drop its support of the bill as a result. The company is again backing the measure this year.

The RCE, Faith Forward and ADL held a protest to counter Hutcherson's efforts outside Lake Washington High School in Kirkland last month, the site where Antioch Bible Church and its anti-Gay pastor hold services every Sunday.

However, a marriage equality decision from the Supreme Court could complicate things for the bill. Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander cast a shadow over the measure after telling the Associated Press that he would like to see the state's highest court release its decision before the end of the current legislative session. However, Friday's floor action could make such a concern a mute point.

Should the bill pass the Senate on Friday, celebrations will be held across the state, including one at the Paramount Theatre (911 Pine Street, Seattle) starting at 6 p.m.

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