Gay Rights Bill Passed in WA Senate

February 14, 2006 ( - New legislation passed in Washington state protects gay persons from discrimination in employment, housing, or lending.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the bill, which passed by a vote of 25-23 in the Washington senate, is an extension of the Washington Civil Rights Act, which protects minorities from discrimination based on race, religion, gender and disabilities. The bill does not give persons the right to marry.

Intense controversy over the issue of gay rights began before the bill was presented for its first Senate vote last year, according to the Post-Intelligencer. The bill failed by one vote at that time.

Conservatives argue that homosexuals have never faced the institutional discrimination that those others groups have faced, and so the legislation was unnecessary. Most of the Republicans argued that it promoted immoral behavior, undermined religious freedom and could be seen as Legislative endorsement of gay marriage.

However, activists say gays and lesbians do face real discrimination in Washington based on sexual orientation and need the protection the bill provides, and Senator Bill Finkbeiner, who changed his vote this year, said, “I don’t believe that it is right … to say that it’s acceptable to discriminate against people because of … who their heart chooses to love. I cannot stand with that argument.”

Governor Christine Gregoire said she plans to sign the bill next week. Once she does, Washington will be the seventeenth state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task force. It will be the seventh state to extend such protections to transgender people, the group said.

Reverend Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, who continued to threaten a boycott of Microsoft and other companies that support gay rights legislation, said opponents of the bill will now seek to reverse it (See Microsoft Accused of Bowing to Religious Groups on Anti-Discrimination Bill Support ).