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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 29, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 05
Bill to restrict flags on WA state ferries introduced after Pride flags flown last June
Section One
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Bill to restrict flags on WA state ferries introduced after Pride flags flown last June

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

State Rep. Brad Klippert introduced a bill this week in Olympia that, if passed by the legislature, would mean that no other flag besides the Stars and Stripes, the Washington state flag and maritime signal flags will fly over state ferries.

The Kennewick Republican told the Tri-City Herald on Wednesday, 'I have no problem with the Seahawks flag. People across all policy beliefs support our Seahawks, but that is not true for Gay pride flags.'

Klippert's bill would end the state ferry system's practice of occasionally flying other flags, such as the 12th flag and, as Klippert referenced, the LGBTQ rainbow-colored flag symbolizing Gay pride.

Last June, while the U.S. Supreme Court mulled over whether or not marriage equality was a civil right in the U.S., the rainbow pride flag was flown on the two ferries serving Seattle to Bainbridge Island and Seattle to Bremerton.

Klippert says that ferries owned by the citizens of Washington state should refrain from any partisan actions and he considers flying the pride flag a partisan act. The reason? Nearly 54 percent of Washington voters approved Referendum 74 in 2012, keeping the law that made same-sex marriage legal in the state. But 62 percent of Benton County residents rejected the initiative. Voters in only one Eastern Washington county, Whitman, favored the measure.

However, Ian Sterling, spokesman for Washington State Ferries said that marriage equality had nothing to do with the agency flying the rainbow pride flag; nor did the Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality to all 50 states. Sterling says Washington State Ferries had been asked to fly the flag on vessels that serve Seattle in honor of Seattle's Pride weekend. Because it is one of the city's largest community events, he says the agency agreed.

Last year, according to its website, Seattle PrideFest 2015 was attended by 200,000 people.

According to Klippert, when he heard the state ferry system was flying the rainbow pride flag last summer, he contacted Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, the ranking minority member of the House Transportation Committee, and together they called the director of the Washington State Department of Transportation and the director of the ferry systems to ask that they be taken down.

The answer was no.

Klippert filed the bill because 'a simple, polite phone call was not enough to stop the behavior,' he said.

Klippert, a Benton County Sheriff's deputy and school resource officer in Benton City, is the only sponsor listed on the bill as posted on the state website. He told the Tri-City Herald he wanted to get the bill introduced as early as possible, rather than spend time adding sponsors, because the legislative session is scheduled for just 60 days.

It is no secret that Klippert is not a friend to the LGBTQ community. He is also sponsoring a bill that would retroactively protect businesses that choose not to provide services for same-sex marriages and he is one of dozens of co-sponsors on another bill intended to override a state rule that requires that Transgender people be allowed to use public restrooms and locker rooms for the gender by which they identify.

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