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Anti-discrimination law's effect on gay marriage unclear

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

Thirty years after the fight to include sexual orientation in Washington’s anti-discrimination ban, Governor Christine Gregoire yesterday was prepared to sign the Anderson-Murray Bill to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing and lending.

All three legislators from the 30th District, which includes Federal Way, voted with other lawmakers in favor of the bill last Friday, sending it to Gregoire to make it official.

While some opponents of the bill –– including the filer of two ballot measures to block it –– fear it creates a new protected class and others are rolling last year’s gay marriage campaign into the flurry of commentary surrounding the bill’s passage, legislators from the south King County area legislators point out the bill doesn’t include any gay marriage provisions.

In fact, Rep. Dave Upthegrove, a Democrat from Des Moines, said Republicans amended the bill with a section that explicitly states it won’t have any effect on Washington’s marriage laws. All it does, he said, is protect gay and lesbian workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation, protect them from being denied housing and protect them from being declined for loans or other financial transactions.

Whether anti-discrimination legislation would pave the way for broader interpretations like gay marriage remains to be seen, but Upthegrove suggested people take the new bill at face value.

“You could try to read tea leaves politically as far as what legislators might do, but legally, it just includes sexual orientation” on the state’s anti-discrimination list along with race, religion, marital status and disabilities, he said.

Rep. Ed Murray, a Democrat from Seattle, sponsored anti-discrimination legislation for a decade after taking up the challenge from former representative Cal Anderson, another Seattle Democrat, who first started introducing the legislation 30 years ago. Anderson died in 1995.

Republican Rep. Skip Priest broke with his party to vote in favor of the legislation. The rest of the 30th District delegation –– Rep. Mark Miloscia and Sen. Tracey Eide, both Democrats –– also voted for it.

Miloscia said the issue was clear: “Do I want someone to refuse to sell a house because they’re gay or lesbian? That’s wrong criteria to deliberately hurt someone. I have friends, family, people I go to church with. That was so hurtful when we did it to blacks, and it’s the same thing.”

Eide voted along with Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, a Republican from Kirkland who cast the lone Senate vote against the bill last year. Finkbeiner changed his mind this year, saying he better understands the issue, and broke with his party to vote in favor of the bill.

Tim Eyman, a professional ballot measure campaigner, filed a referendum and an initiative Monday that aim to undo the bill. To get them on this fall’s ballot, he must collect more than 112,000 signatures of registered voters for the referendum and more than 224,000 for the initiative.

Eyman claimed “people don’t support preferential treatment because they don’t want it to be used as a basis for requiring the legalization of same-sex marriage.”

Despite the criticism from opponents, Upthegrove said the bill will be a benefit to Washington residents.

“It is meaningful to be protected from losing your home or your job,” he said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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