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June 9, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 23
 
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Celebration greets defeat of Referendum 65, antidiscrimination law takes effect
Celebration greets defeat of Referendum 65, antidiscrimination law takes effect
"Twenty-nine years of effort have come to an end," said State Rep. Ed Murray.

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

A crowd filled the sidewalk and adjacent parking lot of the Washington Won't Discriminate campaign headquarters in Seattle on Wednesday. The several hundred people had gathered to celebrate a nearly three decade old effort to pass legislation in Washington State barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Twenty-nine years of effort have come to an end. The bill is law and I don't think the citizens of the state will ever turn back an existing law," said State Rep. Ed Murray, the primary sponsor of the legislation for 11 years. "We need to thank Washington Won't Discriminate and we need to thank Washingtonians for this victory; a victory for fairness."

Tim Eyman and a network of conservative organizations and evangelical churches joined forces in an effort to put Referendum 65 on the ballot. Supporters of Referendum 65 had until Tuesday to collect 112,440 signatures. Should they have succeeded, the affect of the new law would have been frozen until the outcome of the fall election was known.

Standing before a crowd of reporters and his supporters outside the election division office of the Secretary of State in Olympia on Tuesday. Eyman announced that only 105,103 signatures had been collected, far short of the number needed to qualify for the fall ballot.

Standing next to three or four sealed boxes, Eyman toasted his co-sponsors Jack Fagan and Mike Fagan. "Getting that many signatures is an enormous accomplishment," said Eyman. "Of course, we would rather have gotten it on the ballot. I said from the beginning that we were going to push all the way until the end."

He also thanked the organizations that had helped his effort. The Faith & Freedom Network, an anti-Gay conservative organization in Washington State; the state chapter of the Christian Coalition; Restore America, an Oregon based conservative organization seeking to "mobilize and empower America's Christians in directing the moral, educational and political course of their state;" Concerned Women of America, the Eagle Forum and Sound the Alarm was among them.

"Referendum Sunday," an effort by conservative churches throughout the state to collect signatures for Referendum 65, was thought by many - on both sides - to be the thing that could have helped Eyman to collect the signatures he needed to put the referendum over the top. Many of the churches belong to the group Sound the Alarm, which had sent out petitions and a six-minute DVD.

"It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that for a socially conservative referendum, that the churches would be a natural place to go," said Eyman.

According to a report on KING 5 Television, Sound the Alarm's DVD included a scene in which a woman talks about the "dangers" of the new nondiscrimination law. "Your child could have a cross-dresser for a teacher and there's nothing you can do about it," she said.

State Rep. Joe McDermott believed voters saw through such tactics. "Voters across the state - when they know what this is about - support fairness and equality," he told the SGN. "They had the chance to demonstrate that by declining to sign. They would have shown that at the ballot box, should the referendum have gotten that far."

On Monday, the Washington Association of Churches held a press conference at the Episcopalian Diocesan House in Seattle. Six clergy, including two bishops, told reporters that they strongly opposed efforts to overturn our state's new antidiscrimination law and said that they would mobilize their parishioners to oppose Referndum 65.

"Discrimination against any human being on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, or sexual orientation is a moral wrong," said Rev. Jon M. Luopa, senior minister of University Unitarian Church. "It is the duty of a democratic government to protect us from such wrong. It is our duty as citizens to hold the government accountable for such protection."

Gary Randall, President of the Faith and Freedom Network, told the SGN on Tuesday that his group held a very different view. "I know there is the other part of the faith community," he said. "They have every right to take a position and do what they want to do, but the faith community at large holds these biblical views and feels very strongly about them."

According to McDermott, the number of clergy and who support LGBT equality continues to grow. "For anyone to assume that people of faith are opposed to LGBT rights - to civil rights for all - is clearly in error," he said. "I think we are finding people of faith speaking out more and more across the state about their support for our issues."

Randall described the failure of Referendum 65 as a "set-back" and said his group will "look at all the options, decide which is the best and act on it." However, the relationship between Eyman and Randall seemed to have soured.

Eyman told the SGN that he would be unlikely to take on a similar issue, while Randall said his group is likely to go in a different direction - without Eyman - possibly filing an Initiative to the Legislature. "We weren't supporting Tim Eyman's effort, we were supporting the referendum itself," said Randall. "We didn't jump on it quickly, it came along and we got behind it."

Eyman has little time to sulk over Referendum 65 because he has less than a month to collect enough signatures to put I-917, which would limit vehicle license tabs to $30, on the ballot.

Gov. Christine Gregoire released a prepared statement on Wednesday saying it was "proud day in Washington," because the anti-discrimination bill had taken affect. "In January, Washington took an affirmative stand to say to Gay and Lesbian individuals, moms and dads, sons and daughters, neighbors, co-workers and friends that, like all other people, they are free to work in an environment absent [of] discrimination," she said.

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