Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Washington State Supporters Rally for Rights

(Link) After 30 years of failure, it looks like Washington state's gay rights bill may finally become law. It's got the support of the governor -- an a Republican pol who's proud of his lesbian daughter.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
From Associated Press

More than 1,000 gay rights supporters rallied Monday on the Capitol steps, calling for passage of a gay civil rights bill that appears to have sufficient support this year after nearly 30 years of failure in the state Legislature.

Wearing "I'm for Equality" buttons and carrying signs that read "Equality for All of God's Children," supporters listened to lawmakers and religious leaders who support the measure that would add "sexual orientation" to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance. Sixteen states have passed similar laws.

"We are on the brink of doing something truly remarkable," Gov. Chris Gregoire told the cheering crowd. "Finally, after far too many years, the state is going to take a stand to say that gay and lesbian individuals living in our great state have the right to be valued and considered to be as worthy as any other citizen."

The measure passed the House on Friday, and was expected to be up for a vote in the Senate this week. The measure failed by one vote in the Senate last year. Supporters are more hopeful this year because Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, announced earlier this month that he would switch his vote to yes, all but assuring its passage.

Rep. Fred Jarrett, R-Mercer Island, attended the rally with his lesbian daughter, Catherine and her partner. Jarrett was one of six Republicans in the House who voted to support the measure. "I come from a party that got its start in the first great civil rights movement in this country over 150 years ago. I believe our party is still on the side of civil rights and I'm sorry that many of my colleagues do not share that," he told the crowd. "We need to be sure that we always do what Matthew 7:12 suggested, commanded us to do. To do unto others the way we would expect them to do unto us."

Sean Kelley said he and his wife, Leslie, brought their 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter to the rally because they felt unsettled by the measure's failure last year. "As parents we wanted to show our kids how this process needs to work, to be citizens, to not stand by," Sean Kelley said. "We fundamentally believe, as Christians, that everyone is equal."

While most of the lawmakers focused solely on the gay rights bill, many of the other speakers, including state Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, called for support for gay marriage, an issue currently under consideration by the state Supreme Court. "Our struggle for civil rights and for marriage equality has reached a historic moment," said Murray, one of four open gay lawmakers in the Legislature. Murray has been the primary sponsor of the gay rights bill for 11 years.

The religious leaders at the rally included a minister, a rabbi and a Sufi Muslim cleric who all called for allowing gays and lesbians to marry. "Gays and lesbians are children of God, simply with a different orientation," said Rev. Jamal Rahman, a Sufi Muslim cleric from Interfaith Community Church in Seattle. "When we deny them marriage rights, among other rights, we are denying them their basic spiritual rights. This is grossly unjust."

At an earlier meeting with reporters, Gregoire would not offer her position on gay marriage, saying it wasn't appropriate for her to comment while the case was still before the high court. "I'm going to await the court and its decision and then decide where our state should go," she said.

Dr. Joseph Fuiten, a Bothell pastor who is chairman of Faith & Freedom Network, an organization that opposes the bill and gay marriage, said that the religious groups at the rally did not represent the true reading of the Bible. "It's not a question of love or hate, it's a question of moral behavior," he said. "The political agenda is normalizing homosexual behavior by putting legal approval on it."

Fuiten said that his organization has bought ads in several small community papers to encourage senators to vote against the bill. "We haven't given up," he said. "I'm doing everything I can to block it."