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December 15, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 50
 
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Washington Won't Discriminate dissolving ERW, NWLC each receive $15,000 in remaining funds
Washington Won't Discriminate dissolving ERW, NWLC each receive $15,000 in remaining funds
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

The Seattle Gay News has learned that Washington Won't Discriminate, the campaign that rose-up last February to retain our state new law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will disband by the end of the month. The news comes as an Eastside pastor makes known his intentions to repeal the hard-won protections.

On November 28, Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Redmond-based Antioch Bible Church, filed an initiative to the Legislature that seeks to "remove references to 'sexual orientation' or 'sexual preference' including heterosexuality, homosexuality, Bisexuality, gender expression, identity, appearance and behavior from the state's law against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations." However, his ability to collect the 224,880 signatures needed by the December 29 deadline is considered a long-shot by most political observers who spoke with the SGN.

The proposed initiative is similar to a measure backed by Tim Eyman, Referendum 65, which failed to receive the 112,440 valid signatures needed to qualify for the November 2006 ballot. The referendum would have forced a public vote over the fate of the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill.

Hutcherson, who is no stranger to the region's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community due to his anti-Gay efforts, had helped to gather signatures on Referendum 65. Although his latest initiative is seen largely as political maneuvering, he may be back for 2007 filing.

"After they failed to get a measure on this November's ballot by last June's deadline for putting referenda on the ballot, the theocratic right said they might try again to repeal the [Washington Law Against Discrimination] in the fall with an initiative to the Legislature. Given that, WWD's Executive Committee thought it would be prudent to keep WWD as a legal entity through the fall to be ready if any substantive threats emerged," explained Anne Levinson, chair of Washington Won't Discriminate. "The deadline for collecting signatures for an initiative to the Legislature is the end of December, so we decided if signature collection were not underway by September, no real threat could emerge before the end of the year. We also wanted to use a portion of remaining resources on the fall elections to make sure there would be strong majorities in both houses and a fair-minded state Supreme Court since legislators, and potentially the state Supreme Court, are the ones who would address any initiative to the Legislature."

Levinson described the organization as a short-term campaign that had formed for the singular purpose of making sure the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill was not repealed. "We formed early last February to counter any attempts to collect signatures with media and public education, trusting people across the state would want to protect their neighbors and friends from discrimination if they understood what the law was really about, rather than what the repeal proponents would be asserting," she said. "We knew that spending less than $100,000 to keep a measure off the ballot would be a much better way to go than the community having to spend millions over a six-month campaign that would also harm other progressive measures and candidates by motivating a socially conservative base to vote."

Due to the efforts of WWD, Levinson asserts, future attempts to repeal the law will be significantly more difficult. All seven living Washington State Governors - Albert Rossellini, Dan Evans, John Spellman, Booth Gardner, Mike Lowry, Gary Locke, Christine Gregoire; every major newspaper across the state - whether in Yakima, Everett or Spokane; and prominent members of the state's business and moderate religious communities all endorsed the campaign.

"The work done last winter and spring, along with the results of the fall elections, and the continuing evolution of the public's views toward LGBT individuals, should make any other attempt at repeal a very uphill battle. In addition, any initiative aimed at amending the WLAD would now be taking away protections that, by the time of the next election, will have been in workplaces around the state for more than a year and a half."

WWD's remaining financial assets were divided between Equal Rights Washington and the Northwest Women's Law Center, who each received $15,000 earlier this month. In addition, the two groups received WWD's mailing and contact lists, which were also shared with the Pride Foundation, the Religious Coalition for Equality and several campaigns and other organizations.

"ERW donated substantial staff and resources to help make the WWD campaign a success. So, when WWD decided to disband, they donated the remaining assets to ERW and NWLC," explained ERW's Interim Executive Director Barbara Green. "The resources will be used to benefit the LGBT community as we continue to work for LGBT equality, safety and dignity through education, advocacy and organizing and through legislative lobbying."

Likewise, the Women's Law Center donated substantial staff and volunteer resources to WWD, says the organization's executive director, Lisa Stone. In addition to legal expertise, the group had commissioned a poll at the start of the WWD campaign, which was used to help refine strategy and messaging.

"Once WWD was wound up, as it sensibly is now that Tim Eyman's initiative campaign to repeal 2661 is truly done and the community has made it through the campaign season, it made sense to allocate remaining money to the two organizations that are the primary statewide advocates for LGBT rights and equality," she said. "While the NWLC donated substantial staff and volunteer resources to WWD, we benefited during the campaign through enhanced relationships with our allies. We also benefited because we decided to purchase a poll, the results of which we shared with the campaign, that has given us some valuable information about public opinion on LGBT rights.

"While we paid for the poll, we might not have commissioned it were it not for the campaign, and we're glad to have it as we continue to work on these critical issues."

Stone said the money will support the NWLC's advocacy on LGBT issues, including in the 2007 legislature and to support cases that are being investigated that could advance the rights of LGBT persons and families.

The two groups told the SGN this week that they will remain vigilant in their efforts to retain the current anti-discrimination law. ERW will "continue to play a primary role in future efforts to retain" the new law, said Green, while the NWLC will "lobby in the 2007 legislature to avert any repeal effort" and "monitor the efforts of right-wing and religious zealots," added Stone.

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