Press

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hails Washington state bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation

Date: 
January 27, 2006

48% of nation's population will now be protected by sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

"Today, after 30 long years of struggle, the people of Washington state — through their legislature — stood up to the threats, bullying and fear-mongering of the forces of political and religious extremism and said 'NO to discrimination!' With today's victory and those in Maine and Illinois over the last year, 48 percent of the nation's population will now live in a jurisdiction that protects gay people from discrimination. Momentum and time are clearly on our side."
— Matt Foreman, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hailed the Washington state Senate's passage today of a statewide bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Advocates have worked for 30 years to pass the bill, which failed by just one vote in the Senate last year. Last Friday, the House approved the bill, sending it to the Senate. Republican Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, who voted against the bill last year, earlier this month announced his support of the measure.

"This victory is another watershed moment in the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Today, after 30 long years of struggle, the people of Washington state — through their legislature — stood up to the threats, bullying and fear-mongering of the forces of political and religious extremism and said 'NO to discrimination!' With today's victory and those in Maine and Illinois over the last year, 48 percent of the nation's population will now live in a jurisdiction that protects gay people from discrimination. Momentum and time are clearly on our side.

"We salute our partners in Washington who have worked so long and so hard for today, including Equal Rights Washington, Representative Ed Murray, our own board co-chair Marsha Botzer and many others. We also want to recognize the leadership of Governor Christine Gregoire."

With this vote, Washington becomes the 17th state to extend nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation, and the 7th state to extend such protections to transgender people. During the past year, Maine and Illinois passed similar legislation. Now, 48 percent of the nation's population will live in a jurisdiction with a sexual orientation nondiscrimination law. Just 15 years ago, less than 10 percent did so.

Opponents of the Washington equality bill include Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Redmond's Antioch Bible Church, who has threatened boycotts against corporations that supported the bill and urged people to buy up the companies' stock and dump it to drive prices down; the Washington State Catholic Conference; and the Faith and Freedom Network, an evangelical lobbying group. Despite threats of a boycott by bill opponents, several companies, including Microsoft, Nike, Boeing and Hewlett Packard, urged the bill's passage. And earlier this week, hundreds of people of faith converged on the state capitol in Olympia for daylong lobbying and prayers in support of the measure.

"This is an extremely important win. For many years, the Task Force has worked on the ground, shoulder to shoulder with activists in Washington state helping to build the political power of our community and to pass this nondiscrimination legislation," said Washington state resident Marsha Botzer, board co-chair of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and board secretary of Equal Rights Washington. "This victory is to be savored, but more importantly, it is to be built upon. We will 'build, win, build' until we achieve complete equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Let us love the victory but build for the future."

"Thirty years is a long time to wait for equality," said Fran Dunaway, executive director of Equal Rights Washington. "With the passage of this historic legislation, Washington joins a growing list of states protecting every citizen equally. Equal Rights Washington is grateful for the continued nurturing and support of national organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign and so many local groups like Religious Coalition for Equality, Greater Seattle Business Association, the Pride Foundation and Western States Center, to achieve this long-sought victory."

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.