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Volume 34
Issue 49
 
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Hutcherson files initiative aimed at repealing protections for Gays
Hutcherson files initiative aimed at repealing protections for Gays
Effort seen as political posturing for a later filing

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Redmond-based Antioch Bible Church, filed an initiative to the Legislature with the Secretary of State last week. The proposed initiative 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."

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 ballot. The referendum tried to force a public vote on Washington State's new law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"It's no surprise that those who opposed equal rights in recent years would try to circumvent the process after their failure - and our victory - last year in the Legislature," said Senator-Elect Ed Murray. "But equal rights aren't special rights, and they shouldn't be subject to the whims of special interests - like those of Ken Hutcherson and his church. Mr. Hutcherson and his supporters will soon find out that they represent a narrow slice of Washingtonians.

Anne Levinson, the Chair of Washington Won't Discriminate (WWD), the campaign that rose-up to oppose Referendum 65, told the SGN this week that organization had "rolled its remaining assets into [Equal Rights Washington] and the Northwest Women's Law Center and planned to "formerly wrap up the committee at year end."

Equal Rights Washington's Interim Executive Director Barbara Green and the Northwest Women's Law Center's Lisa Stone issued a joint statement on Thursday: "The filing of this initiative is not unexpected. However, Washingtonians have shown that they will not tolerate discrimination, and we are confident that they will refuse to sign this mean-spirited attempt to undo the anti-discrimination law in our state."

Hutcherson is no stranger to the region's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. Hutcherson's church had gathered signatures to support the Eyman's referendum. He took credit for bullying Microsoft into temporarily withdrawing its support of pro-Gay legislation and organized the 2004 "Mayday for Marriage Rally" at Safeco Field. He is also an advocate of "ex-Gay" therapy and offers it at his church, a practice condemned by every mainstream medical and psychological organization.

"The Washington Law against Discrimination is a basic law that has been on the books in our state since 1949. It protects people from being fired or denied housing based on race, religion, gender, disability and other factors," said Anne Levinson, Chair of WWD. "All the Legislature did last year was to update it to include sexual orientation. Surely Rev. Hutcherson can find better things to do with his time and money than to try to return us to the day when these protections did not exist.

"Rev. Hutcherson should reflect upon what many of his colleagues have come to realize across the country -- true spiritual leaders use their voices to have a positive impact on humanity by helping eliminate poverty, suffering, and environmental degradation; not by creating false conflicts between human beings in divisive and mean-spirited ways."

Hutcherson's latest effort is seen largely as political maneuvering for a possible filing at a later date. The current proposed initiative would have to receive 224,880 signatures by December 29 to be forwarded to the Legislature for action in the 2007 legislative session.

Representative-Elect Jamie Pedersen says he isn't concerned about the initiatives potential impact on the upcoming 2007 legislative session, which is scheduled to being on January 8. "I don't think the presence of the initiative is going to cast any shadow over that work or hinder it," he said. "I do think it is a good reminder to us that -- whatever we accomplish in the Legislature - we need to be able to defend it at the ballot box. Anything we do this session could - potentially - lead to an attempt to put a referendum on the ballot."

Bill Dubay, a longtime activist on LGBT causes, says the any threat to our state's anti-discrimination law should be taken seriously. "Whether or not any initiative that is filed by Reverend Hutcherson or anyone else makes it to the ballot will depend on how active or passive members of our own community decide to be during the signature gathering period," he said. "We can be proactive now and nip this anti-Gay movement in the 'bud' before it gets to the ballot, or we can sit back passively with a wait and see attitude and spend the summer and fall of '07 raising a lot of money for a very expensive campaign to preserve the rights we have already won."

The complete text of Hutcherson's initiative is available online at the Secretary of State's website: www.secstate.wa.gov

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