Friday, January 27, 2006

Washington State passes Gay Civil Rights bill

Well, the Senate passed the bill. The bill now goes back to the House for another vote to agree on language changes. The House has had no problem passing this bill in the past, so this looks like a done deal. The Governor will sign the legislation making Washington State the 17th state in the country to pass this important piece of legislation. It's been a long time coming as the bill was first introduced in 1977.

According to Eli Sanders at the Slog:

His voice thick with emotion, Sen. Bill Finkbeiner (R-Redmond) just made it all but certain the bill will pass. He will likely be the only Republican to break ranks and vote with Democrats in support of the bill. And in explaining to his Republican colleagues why he is choosing to do so, he demolished the conservative argument against the proposed legislation.

He began by going through the list of concerns Republicans usually raise about the bill: That it will hurt small businesses (No, Finkbeiner pointed out, the bill exempts businesses with fewer than eight employees); that it will take away the rights of religious organizations (No, Finkbeiner pointed out, religious organizations are exempted from the proposed law); that it will lead to gay marriage (No, Finkbeiner pointed out, it has nothing to do with gay marriage).

Therefore, Finkbeiner said, “What the debate is about is not what’s in the bill. What the debate is about is what we’ve heard today: Whether or not it’s ok to be gay or homsexual in this state. And whether or not it’s ok to discriminate against someone because of that…

“An earlier speaker said: Would you choose this lifestyle for your children? Parents don’t choose this, you don’t choose who you love. The heart chooses who you love. I don’t believe it would be right for us to say it is acceptable to discriminate against people because of who their heart chooses to love. I cannot stand with that argument.

“I hope that after the passage of this bill that we’ll see that the world continues to turn. But for some people who struggle with this issue, and who struggle with the messages they’re being sent, it will be a better day.”

Why did a Republican join with Democrats to pass this bill? Well, it's not out of character for Finkbeiner who has voted for the bill in the past, but voted against it during the last 2 sessions. This time, however, Microsoft threw it's weight behind the bill (as did many of the state's largest employers). Finkbeiner also recently stated that he wanted to put this issue behind us so that we could focus the legislature on more pressing concerns. Good for him! Congrats, Washington!

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