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King County Exec. Ron Sims to debate Rev. Ken Hutcherson on Gay rights
King County Exec. Ron Sims to debate Rev. Ken Hutcherson on Gay rights
Town Hall event to be held Thursday, March 2

Gay Rights Debate

Thursday, March 2 at 7:30pm

$5, tickets at door only


The recent passage of the Gay rights bill in the state legislature has provoked a debate within the African American community about whether Gay rights are kin to the African-American civil rights movement of the 1960s. Dr. Ken Hutcherson, Pastor at Redmond's Antioch Bible Church, is an outspoken opponent of Gay rights and takes strenuous issue with the equation of the two movements. King County Executive Ron Sims (son of a Baptist minister and lay minister himself) just as vigorously takes the opposite point of view and has explicitly linked the two causes. These two influential black leaders take up the issue in a debate moderated by KING 5's Robert Mak.

Dr. Hutcherson is the founder and senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Washington. A former NFL linebacker, he has been featured on numerous radio and TV programs, as well as in newspapers and magazines, for his crusade against Gay rights. He organized the Mayday for Marriage (in support of marriage remaining defined as being between a man and a woman) in the spring 2004 that drew an estimated 20,000 conservative Christians to Safeco Field, as well as a national Mayday for Marriage rally in Washington, D.C. in October of '04, which attracted some 140,000 participants from around the country.

In 2005, Hutcherson lobbied Microsoft to withdraw its support for Washington state law H.B. 1515 - a law that makes it illegal to fire an employee because of sexual orientation. Microsoft withdrew its backing and the bill failed by one vote. The ensuing media storm led Microsoft to reinstate its support for the Gay civil rights bill, which the Senate passed this session by a 25-23 vote, followed by the House passing it by a 61-37 vote. Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law Jan. 31, 2006.

Born in Spokane, Ron Sims' parents both worked in government: his father, an ordained Baptist minister, worked for the Washington State Office of Community Development; his mother was the first African-American department head in the history of the City of Spokane. Sims cut his political teeth as a young man marching alongside his parents in the struggle for racial equality, and a passion for civil rights issues has animated him throughout his political career.

In 1985, Sims was elected to the King County Council. In 1996, Sims was appointed King County Executive after then-Executive Gary Locke was elected governor. Sims stood for election the following year, winning easily, and was reelected by a wide margin in 2001. A long-time friend to the Gay community, Sims strongly believes that Gay and Lesbian citizens deserve the same rights and privileges as other groups, including marriage rights.

Last year, as politicians in Portland and San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples without explicit legal sanction Sims came under pressure to do the same. He refused, citing his obligation to uphold the law. At the same time, however, he worked privately with Gay marriage advocates to craft a lawsuit in which they sued King County in an effort to overturn the state's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that is currently in front of the Washington State Supreme Court.

Mak is host of "KING 5 News Up Front," and a news reporter at KING 5 Television, Seattle's NBC affiliate. Mak has covered many of the major news events shaping public policy in Washington State and his news reports have been recognized by numerous organizations. From Washington to New Hampshire, his coverage of the 2004 election earned him the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Broadcast TV Political Journalism, a national award presented by the University of Southern California Annenberg School. He also received another Cronkite award for his extensive "Ad Watch" campaign, examining the claims in political commercials during the 2000 campaign. Regional honors include seven Emmy awards and first-place honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Associated Press. In 2004, the Municipal League of King County presented Mak with its Civic Award for governmental news reporting. Seattle Magazine named him one of the city's 25 most influential people.

The Town Hall Center for Civic Life is presented and produced by Town Hall Seattle and often collaborates with other civic partners. Now in its second season, its focus is on forums, panels, and speakers addressing current affairs issues. Funding is drawn from individuals, foundations, and corporations.



A Town Hall press release

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