Last week, after a generation of delay, the Washington state Legislature finally approved the gay civil rights bill. The bill prohibits discrimination against members of the GLBT community in housing, employment and insurance in the same way such religious or racial discrimination is prohibited. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire is expected to sign the legislation this week.
Without question this is good news.
But such news is not the whole story. It says something discouraging that such basic protections took nearly 30 years to achieve. And it says something positive about the persistence of legislators such as the late Cal Anderson and his successor, Ed Murray, and others who consistently championed the cause.
The bill's passage is also a reflection of current political climate. The margin of victory in the senate was 25-23, meaning it came down to one senator's vote. In this case that vote belonged to Bill Finkbeiner of Kirkland, who broke ranks with his fellow Republicans - the only one to do so - and turned the tide on an issue that should have been decided long ago. This bill passed by a slender thread.
The bill should appeal to common sense. And this legislation, contrary to what blowhards like the Rev. Ken Hutcherson tend to spout with fiery and misguided indignation, doesn't promote a particular lifestyle or tear apart the moral fabric of our society. It doesn't encourage homosexuality. It merely says that you cannot discriminate against a person on the basis of their sexual orientation. Sadly, 30 years is a long time for this basic notion to be codified.
That it took so long is a reflection of the glacial pace of social change. But the gay civil rights bill serves also as a reflection of where the state's political will may be heading. The challenge, and the test of progress, lies in where we go from here.
Because the bill does not end the issue of discrimination for sexual minorities. Watch salesman/referendum hawker Tim Eyman has already begun his effort to repeal it, filing both an initiative and a referendum before the governor had even signed the gay civil rights bill into law. The state Supreme Court will soon decide on the Defense of Marriage Act; should it choose to uphold it this inalienable right would remain out of reach to sexual minorities.
Which means that the gay civil rights bill is a welcome, positive and necessary step. The bill represents progress, certainly, but not certainty. We're not out of the proverbial woods just yet.[[In-content Ad]]