Washington State Legislature passes Anti-discrimination bill

From: Pride Foundation

Today the Washington State Legislature approved HB 2661, the Anderson-Murray anti-discrimination bill. This is an historic day for all of Washington State's citizens that believe in fairness and equality! Thanks to the courage of our legislators, our Governor, and the tireless work of so many organizations and individuals, every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person in Washington will finally be treated fairly under the law. Washington State now joins 15 other states and the District of Columbia by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Specifically, the legislation modifies the state's discrimination law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, insurance and commercial transactions. Previous to passage of this bill, the law provided protection based on race, creed, color, national origin, sex, marital status or the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability but held no such equal protection for LGBT people in Washington.

First introduced in 1977, the bill made it to the Senate for a full vote only last year, where, after heavy lobbying from it's opponents, it was narrowly defeated. This year, however, Sen. Bill Finkbeiner (R-Kirkland) changed his vote on the bill, after releasing a statement saying that he has come to "more fully understand the level of discrimination against gays and lesbians." The bill was then introduced by Governor Gregoire herself, who has promised to sign it when it comes to her desk.

Why is this landmark so important? Here at the Pride Foundation, we frequently hear from LGBT people from every corner of our state how difficult it has been to hide who they are at work, or even at home, when not protected by law. This isn't just about those that have been actively discriminated against over the years, but the many-fold more who have lived in fear of discrimination without recourse from their co-workers, supervisors, and landlords.

Passage of HB 2661 finally lifts that unfair burden from the shoulders of LGBT people who have lived with it too long. Just as Sen. Finkbeiner's change of heart has proven, the key to changing opinions about LGBT people is to better understand them. The passing of this legislation marks an opportunity for everyone in Washington State to learn more about their LGBT friends, family and neighbors. I encourage you to use this opportunity to begin a dialogue with someone close to you. We have reached a historic landmark with this bill, but there's more work left to be done.

Today, however, we should give thanks to the countless individuals who have worked selflessly to make all Washingtonians equal under the law, including the many community members who have testified, lobbied, given donations and supported this legislation over the past 29 years. We especially want to thank Rep. Ed Murray for his dogged determination and leadership. He picked up the torch from Senator Cal Anderson, Washington's first openly-gay elected official, who championed the bill from 1988 until his death in 1995. Also Representatives Jim Moeller, Joe McDermott and Dave Upthegrove have played a crucial role in supporting this legislation and by serving as openly-gay legislators in our state.

Let this day be a celebration and acknowledgement that none of us have labored in vain.

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