Washington Legislature passes gay civil rights bill | VailDaily.com

Washington Legislature passes gay civil rights bill

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington lawmakers passed a gay rights bill Friday in a major victory for activists who had watched the measure fail in the Legislature for nearly 30 years.The bill passed the Senate 25-23, with a lone Republican joining Democrats in voting in favor. The House approved it 61-37, and Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire said she would sign it on Tuesday.”We don’t choose who we love. The heart chooses who we will love,” said Republican Sen. Bill Finkbeiner. “And I don’t believe that it is right for us to say … that it’s acceptable to discriminate against people because of that.”The measure adds sexual orientation to a state law banning discrimination in housing, employment and insurance on the basis of race, gender, age, disability, religion, marital status and other factors. Sixteen states have passed similar laws.Passage of the bill drew applause from House members and cheers from onlookers who had packed the Senate’s balconies. Rep. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who has sponsored the bill for 11 years, was given a standing ovation.”I know for some, you’re not happy,” said Murray, one of four openly gay lawmakers in the Legislature. “For others, it’s a historic day that quite honestly we wouldn’t imagine could have happened even a few short years ago. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day.”Celebrations were planned in Seattle and nine other cities Friday night.After the measure failed last year by one vote in the Senate, many gay-rights activists directed their anger at Microsoft Corp., which had dropped its support for the bill. The company eventually urged passage after months of criticism.Two Senate Democrats voted against the measure Friday.Republican Sen. Dan Swecker said the measure would “trample unrelentingly” on religious viewpoints that object to gays. “We, the state, are telling people to accept, actually to embrace, something that goes against their religious views,” he said.House Republicans amended the bill to say that it would not modify or change state marriage laws. The state Supreme Court heard arguments on a case challenging Washington’s ban on gay marriage last year, and a ruling is expected in the coming weeks.The bill was first introduced in 1977, but it is most closely associated with the state’s first openly gay lawmaker, Democrat Cal Anderson of Seattle, who sponsored it for eight years before he died of AIDS in 1995.”I don’t doubt that he’s really smiling down on us right now,” said his partner of 10 years, Eric Ishina of Seattle. “He gave a lot of us the enthusiasm and energy to keep fighting for this bill.”Two public hearings drew dozens of opponents.”What you’re going to have to have now is the promoting of homosexual sex as normal via the apparatus of government,” said Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten of the Faith & Freedom Network.The law would take effect in June, 90 days after the end of session, unless a referendum challenge is filed, freezing it.Fuiten said his organization was preparing to file for a referendum on the bill, but added that he may wait on the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage.Vail, Colorado

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