February 3, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 05
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Wednesday, Mar 03, 2021



Gov. Gregoire signs Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill into law
Gov. Gregoire signs Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill into law
Eyman; Christian Coalition promise ballot challenge

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

The Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill (HB 2661), which had languished in Olympia for nearly three decades was signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire on Tuesday during a special ceremony at the Capitol building. The bills passage makes Washington the 17th state in the country to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and the seventh to include Transgender persons.

"In 1977, a group of thoughtful citizens took the first steps toward adding 'sexual orientation' to the state's law against discrimination," said Gregoire. "We owe these citizens a tremendous amount of gratitude, because it was their first steps that brought us to where we are today & my signing the Civil Rights Bill into law.

"I can't think of any piece of legislation that has taken so long to work its way through the legislature. It makes today especially historic."

The crowded room included the legislations earliest backers, such as former State Sen. Pete Francis, the bill's original sponsor, and Roger Winters, who testified in favor of the legislation before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1977. Francis told the Seattle Gay News on Tuesday that he had introduced the bill because he felt it was "the right thing to do."

Gregoire thanked House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) and Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) for their "unwavering commitment and hard work" to get the legislation to the Governor's desk. She also thanked Reps. Joe McDermott (D-Seattle), Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver) and Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines) - three of our state's four openly Gay legislators. However, she reserved her deepest gratitude for Rep. Ed Murray (D-Seattle), who has introduced the legislation continuously for the last 11 years.

"Ed. On behalf of the citizens of our great state, thank you for your perseverance, strength and commitment," Gregoire told Murray, who is also Gay.

Gregoire also thanked the late Sen. Cal Anderson, Washington's first openly Gay legislator. Anderson had served seven years in the House and another year in the Senate before his death from AIDS-related cancer in 1995. "You have heard his name rightly and justly invoked with the Civil Rights Bill," she said. "Every year during his service to this state, first as a representative and then as a senator, Cal fought to ban discrimination in the workplace."

She said that she can see a tree that had been dedicated to Anderson from her office window. Under the tree, a plaque reads: "As a tribute to his integrity, dignity and courage in striving to make all citizens of Washington State equal under the law."

Gregoire also thanked the "long line of Governors" who have supported the legislation. She named Republican Govs. Dan Evans and John Spellman and Democratic Govs. Albert Rosellini, Booth Gardner, Mike Lowry and Gary Locke.

"Prohibiting discrimination knows no political party. We would not be here today if not for the valiant efforts of members of both chambers - Republicans and Democrats, alike - working together," said Gregoire. "The Legislature deserves credit for its civility and spirit of respect. This is an emotionally charged issue, and our lawmakers were the model of good behavior. You serve your constituents well and, on their behalf, I thank you."

Last Friday, Republican Sen. Bill Finkbeiner (R-Kirkland) broke ranks with his party and joined Democrats to pass the measure by a vote of 25-23. Finkbeiner voted against the measure last year while serving as the Republican Senate Minority Leader. "We don't choose who we'll love," he said on Friday. "The heart chooses who we will love.

"I hope after the passage of this bill we'll see the world continue to turn."

In an interview with the SGN recently, Finkbeiner said that seeing the opposition to the bill had opened his eyes to the reality that there was an "unhealthy level of discrimination that exists in attitudes the people had in opposing the bill." He also said the issue had been used as a "political football by both parties."

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. 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. Sheldon and Hargrove also opposed the bill this year.

Normally, the new law would take affect in June, just 90 days after the end of the current legislative session. However, initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who is best known for his $30 car tab initiative, introduced two ballot measures on Monday seeking to reverse the effect of the legislation.

Democrats had not attached an emergency clause to the bill, which leaves the bill open to a repeal effort by its foes. Initiatives require about 225,000 voter signatures to quality for the ballot, but a referendum would require haft of that.

Should he collect enough signatures to get his referendum or initiative - or both - on the ballot by June 7 or July 7 respectively, the bill would not go into affect until voters can vote on the issue.

The ballot measures have the backing of the Christian Coalition of Washington. Rick Forcier, the groups executive director, says that the anti-Gay organization "fully embrace the effort." However, the Rev. Joseph Fuiten, chairman of the equally anti-Gay Faith and Freedom Network, has said he was "not opposed, but not in favor of it" either, because he wasn't sure that a ballot measure would be the best approach..

Opponents of the legislation believe that it weaken existing state law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The language of the initiative reflects that: "The people do not support preferential treatment because the people do not want it to be used as a basis for requiring the legalization of same-sex marriage."

Murray told the SGN this week that the legislation was not about marriage, but equal treatment under the law and that the rights of minorities should never be determined by the majority.

Fran Dunaway, Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington, a pro-Gay statewide advocacy organization, echoed Murray's remarks during an interview with the SGN on Thursday. "This initiative is a real wake up call to all of us and we've worked too hard for too long to get this bill passed and it's simply not okay to put our rights up for public vote," she said. "This community is rallying and when this community works together it is a powerful thing. United, we will win."

A separate campaign, led, in part, by former Seattle Deputy Mayor Anne Levinson, will carry-out the day-to-day operations. According to Dunaway, ERW has started building Equality Teams in every district in Washington, which will play a "vital role in mobilizing people across the state."

"We will work closely with the campaign to fight this ballot measure," said Dunaway. "In addition, we will keep people informed about what is going on and rally people to get involved in the grass roots efforts that are going to be critical in fighting this initiative."

During a press conference on Monday in front of the Secretary of State's Office, Eyman said that public votes to defeat a pro-Gay initiative (I-677) in 1997 and to pass I-200 in 1998 demonstrate that the people would likely oppose the current legislation at the ballot box.

"Should this decision be made in Olympia, or should it be made by the people?" Eyman asked. "The voters want to have the final say."

Thing have changed significantly since 1997, said Dunaway. A recent poll by ERW found that 61 percent of Washington residents support nondiscrimination legislation that includes Gays and Lesbians. "Anyone who has come out at work, at home, in their neighborhood, has done their part in changing the climate for the LGBT community," she said. "People talking about their lives and being who they are has truly changed things here. Washington is a more tolerant, fair state and this fight will bring fair minded people together like nothing ever has."

Last Friday, Gov. Gregoire said she would vigorously defend the new law. "I have done everything I can in my public life and my private life to stamp out discrimination," she said. "That's what today is about. I will continue that fight as long as I am here."

Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander has told the Associated Press that he would like to see the state's highest court release its decision in a marriage equality case before the end of the current legislative session. A decision from the state's highest court could further complicate the campaign for those seeking to retain the new law.

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