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5 years after LGBT anti-discrimination law passed, opponents’ dire predictions fail to materialize

Rep. Cal Anderson. Photo courtesy of
Sen. Ed Murray

Five years ago, on June 7, 2006, the Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination law (HB 2661) went into effect in Washington state.  The law added sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the state’s law against discrimination.

Adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to anti-discrimination laws was not a novel idea in 2006.  The Washington Legislature had been debating the idea since 1977 when the House Social and Health Services Committee heard testimony on HB 689, the first LGBT anti-discrimination bill filed with the Washington state Legislature.

Other jurisdictions had been having similar conversations over the years, so that by the time the Legislature began its debate on the Anderson-Murray bill in January 2006, the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane already had laws or policies in place which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation (GI/E?), with Seattle’s addition of sexual orientation to their ordinances dating back 30 years.

By early 2006, 17 states and the District of Columbia had passed such laws, with District of Columbia having passed the first sexual orientation protections in 1977 and Minnesota passing the first comprehensive LGBT law in 1993.

Though laws similar to that proposed in HB 2661 had been on the books for so long in so many places with no ill effect, dire predictions by Washington’s bill opponents flew fast and furious as if the laboratory of 17 other states did not exist.


Opponents of pro-equality legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people often predict a dark and dismal future should such legislation pass.  

“With the elected shock troops of the homosexual agenda in Washington State politics—you know their names— we are seeing our culture redefined and destroyed.”. —Gary Randall, Faith & Freedom Network

“This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon. …We lose this, we are going to lose in a lot of other ways, including freedom of religion.” ~~Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries

“They are attempting to silence anybody who believes that homosexuality is a sin”. ~~Brian Fitzpatrick, Editor, Media Research Center’s Culture & Media Institute

It’s easy for for naysayers to use scare tactics like this because who’s going to come back and check.  I am, in fact.  

Washington state is not immune form this phenomenon.  

Now, 5 years on, we can easily assess the accuracy of the opposition’s wild predictions.

1. The majority of voters oppose the bill

2. There will be voter backlash against bill supporters

3. Passage of the anti-discrimination law will lead to gay marriage

4. Freedom of religion or speech endangered

5. Washington will become Litigation Central!  The bill is a gift to lawyers

6. Gay will be taught in schools

7. Turning away from God

8.  Beards & Dresses: Employer dress codes will be ignored


On March 23, 1977 Seattle Mayor Wes Uhlman testified before the House Social and Health Services Committee in support of HB 689, the first anti-discrimination bill filed with the Washington state Legislature.

At the time of his testimony, the City of Seattle already had several years of experience with similar legislation, having passed ordinances against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment in September 1973 and in housing in August 1975.

“That experience, which has been extremely positive, leads me to testify today in support of House Bill 689.  Since we’ve enacted our two ordinances we’ve experienced neither a deluge of cases brought before our responsible agency which is the Seattle Human Rights Commission, nor have we experienced any public outcry or any public disapproval.  In terms of case load, the effects of including sexual orientation as a protected class has been extremely minimal,” said Mayor Uhlman.

Since the ordinances had been adopted, only 19 employment cases and 6 housing cases had been filed with the Commissioner.  

“These numbers represent a very small percentage of the total caseload before the Commission.  I’ll give you just one example to point that out.  Last year under our employment ordinance 220 cases were filed.  Of that number only 9 — less than one half of one percent — were brought under the sexual orientation clause of the ordinance.  All the rest being filed under other areas of discrimination such as age, sex, marital status and race.

orientation in our ordinances has not at all substantially increased the workload of our existing ordinances agencies, nor has it necessitated the hiring of any additional personnel in the City of Seattle.  This is a concern which I know which has been expressed by some members of the Legislature and by some of the budget persons.  

“The second area of concern is that of public acceptance, and I know each of you are concerned about questions that are made by the subject matter.  Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, we know that legislation of this kind which deals with human rights of any variety carries with it a great deal of public concern.  It carries with it a great deal of public controversy.  This is particularly true when we deal with sexual relationships, and when we deal with all forms of human sexuality.  The myths and the attitudes about homosexuality is particularly still with us, and we can’t expect to see these attitudes change over night.  However I can tell you from our own experience in Seattle that was once perhaps perceived to be the opening of the floodgates of public criticism just simply has not materialized in our city.  

There were no public outcries.  There were no scathing editorials.  There were no pickets and certainly no demonstrations.  There was and is today support from the gay community of our city, a constituency which is estimated as high as ten percent of the population.  Indeed this is a sizable segment of our society, and it’s a part of our community which for years has been the victim of often-times senseless discrimination.  

I spoke just a moment ago about myths.  I would hope that the most important myth that we could dispel in the state of Washington, would be dispel with the passage of this law would be that our state does not protect all its citizens with a fair and equal hand.

Senator Dan Swecker (R)

  • Unfortunately, this bill would trample, unrelentingly, on the freedoms of citizens whose religious beliefs are in direct conflict with the bill’s premise.
  • [A]lthough a church might be exempt under this bill, a business owner whose beliefs conflict with homosexuality is not.
  • Threats, Scary Predictions and Reality Checks

    1. The majority of voters oppose the bill

    Sen. Dan Swecker
    Rep. Don Cox
    Sen. Val Stevens
    Pastor Ken Hutcherson
    Pastor Joe Fuiten

    Ignoring the principle that the rights of minorities should not be at the whim of the majority, opponents of the anti-discrimination bill claimed that the bill was unwanted by most voters and therefore should not be passed.

    Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester) said:

    I’m going to join the sixty percent of voters in Washington who have already said they would come down against the idea of this bill. A few years ago the people voted on Initiative 677 which was similar bill. It went down by a super-majority.

    Similarly Rep. Don Cox (R-Colfax) said that

    We believe this bill expands the scope of government beyond the will of the people.

    Sen. Val Stevens (R-Arlington) went so far as to make the extreme claim that rather than a civil rights bill,

    [An anti-marriage-equality amendment to the constitution] is what the people in our state want.

    In a public hearing on the bill, Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church challenged the Legislature to pass the law because he was confident that the ensuing voter referendum (Referendum 65) could put an end once and for all to the 30-year struggle to pass such legislation.  Hutcherson and his church were active participants in the referendum effort.

    Maybe the best thing in the world is for this bill to pass.  Because if this bill does pass, maybe we won’t have to see it 31 years.  Because it’s going to come before the people.  And we’re going to let you know what polls say when the people vote.

    The day after the Senate passed the bill, Pastor Joe Fuiten assured the Columbian Referendum 65 “will hit like a tidal wave in Washington state.  It will become the dominant issue for this year.”

    Reality Check:  Voters were in fact so supportive of the new Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination Law that even after 3 months of trying, the backers of Referendum 65 failed to get enough voter signatures to submit to Secretary of State for authentication.  This despite the radical-right religious organization Sound the Alarm using church infrastructure and pastors to exhort their followers to collect signatures on Referendum Sunday and scare-monger the captive audiences with a DVD promising “Your child could have a cross-dresser for a teacher and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

    teaming up with ballot measure profiteer Tim Eyman .


    Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2661. Filed on February 9, 2006 by Tim Eyman, M.J. Fagan, and Leo J. Fagan of Spokane. No signatures were presented for checking.

    Despite Pastor Joe Fuiten‘s claim that a referendum repeal of the new anti-discrimination law would be the dominant issue for the year, the topic all but vanished from public discourse by the June 6th signature submission deadline.

    2. There will be voter backlash against bill supporters

    Pastor Joe Fuiten of Cedar Park Assembly of God in Bothell and then-Chairman of Faith and Freedom Network tried to intimidate legislators who supported the anti-discrimination bill with this prediction in the Seattle Times:

    Instead of a gay-rights law, you’re going to have the law of unintended consequences. And the unintended consequences is that Democrats are going to be firmly tied to same-sex marriage and I think they are going to pay a price in November.

    Pastor Fuiten was particularly pointed about stoking voter backlash against Finkbeiner, a Republican who… :  “I’ve endorsed him in the past but won’t be endorsing him in the new election. I’ll be looking for a primary opponent.”

    After the vote in the House, Pastor Gary Randall, President of Faith and Freedom Network, talked about “sending a message” in a blog post titled “Six Republicans Fail Their Constituents”:

    The measure passed on a 60-37 vote with 6 Republicans joining 54 Democrats to pass it. …

    Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who has been sponsoring such a measure for the past eleven years said, “This legislation is about more than just changing the law, it is about sending a message.” …

    And sending a message can cut both ways. The recent poll conducted by Elway for Faith & Freedom found that voters in Washington do not support gay marriage. Possibly that could include related issues such as gay rights under the guise of civil rights.

    Yes, Mr. Murray may be right. The passage of this bill may indeed send a message.

    During the 2006 elections, Faith & Freedom Network made sure to inform their supporters of the position of candidates on the anti-discrimination bill in selected districts.

    Reality Check: Although this scare tactic failed to dissuade a solid majority of legislators from voting for the anti-discrimination bill, there was indeed a voter backlash in November, 2006…against anti-equality “No” voters.

    Of the legislators up for reelection in 2006, none who had voted “Yes” for the bill lost their seats, while seven Republicans who voted “No” lost their seats to pro-equality Democrats who went on to vote for the first Domestic Partnership bill in 2007 (SB 5336).

    Table of Legislators who voted against HB 2661 and lost their seats to pro-equality Democrats in the November, 2006 election.

    District Anti-equality Legislator Pro-equality Elected
    6th Sen. Brad Benson (R) Chris Marr (D)
    6th Rep. John Serben Don Barlow (D)
    23rd Rep. Beverly Woods Christine Rolfes (D)
    24th Rep. Jim Buck Kevin van de Wege (D)
    44th Sen. Dave Schmidt (R) Steve Hobbs (D)
    45th Rep. Toby Nixon (R) Eric Oemig (D)
    48th Sen. Luke Esser (R) Rodney Tom (D)

    This does not even count the arch anti-gay Republicans like Sen. Bob Oke and Rep. Gigi Talcott who retired rather than face re-election, and whose seats were filled by pro-equality Democrats.  The Seattle Times reported that “The [Democratic] party has emerged from Tuesday’s elections with its strongest legislative majorities in decades. …Democrats expect at least a 31-18 seat majority in the state Senate and a 62-36 split in the House.”

    This result is consistent with what Freedom to Marry has documented for legislators voting against anti-equality marriage amendments: “Not one of the 670 legislators from 17 different states lost re-election because of voting against a discriminatory anti-gay amendment.”  Voters don’t punish legislators for taking ethical, pro-equality votes.

    3. Passage of the anti-discrimination law will lead to gay marriage

    At the time that the Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination bill was being debated, the Washington State Supreme Court was considering a challenge to the state’s so-called defense of marriage act, or DOMA, a 1998 law imposing a heterosexual-only definition on civil marriage.  Opponents of the anti-discrimination bill insisted that the Court would strike DOMA should the anti-discrimination law pass.

    Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester):

    I also believe the passage of this legislation places us on a slippery slope towards the legalization of gay marriage in our state. …Yes, this bill has an amendment that it says it won’t supercede state law related to gay marriage but are any of us really naive to think that the court won’t take judicial notice of our actions as it prepares to issue a ruling on DOMA?

    Sen. Val Stevens (R-Arlington)

    As we’re all aware language has been added into this bill that says, ‘It will not override the state regulation and relation of one man and one woman being called marriage.’ …But I’m sorry to tell you that the meaningless wording in this piece of legislation will not carry us as we are kidding ourselves to believe.  That wording in this bill is going to be deemed absolutely meaningless when it comes down to where the rubber meets the road. Because we all know that the courts are about to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act. If they rule against the language, in this law prohibiting what we are saying here today will not have any meaning whatsoever.

    Sen. Joyce Mulliken (R-Ephrata) used testimony from the Washington State Catholic Conference to bolster her claim:

    I want to read one thing from the [Washington State] Catholic Conference Testimony which is important to me. ‘…Under this proposed bill even with the amended version those who wish these relationships promoted and protected may have legal cause for action.’

    The Seattle Times reported that the Washington State Catholic Conference “opposes the bill, as it has in the past” because “the bill’s definition of sexual orientation is too broad and would create a protected class of citizens that would make it easier for the court to allow gay marriage, said Sister Sharon Park, the conference’s executive director.”  A later statement (pdf) from the Washington State Catholic Conference intended to drum up support for R-65 read:

    Although we support protections like those in HB 2661 for all people, we opposed this legislation prior to its passage by the Legislature.  The reasons for our opposition are …[that] similar laws were used by courts in at least two other states as factors in overturning their laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a women.   [snip]

    As a result we will continue to oppose …any efforts, direct or indirect, to alter the legal definition of marriage.

    Rep. Don Cox (R-Colfax):

    It grants sexual orientation a constitutionally protected status without amending the constitution.

    {WSC disagreed}

    Pastor Joe Fuiten according to the Seattle Times

    called HB 2661 a “slimy slope” that would rob the state of its ability to fight against gay marriage.

    Sen. Luke Esser (R-Bellevue) told the Columbian that

    [T]here’s no doubt that this law was simply intended to provide assistance to those who are trying to overturn our state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

  • The Seattle Times quoted Gary Randall, president of Faith and Freedom Network:

    Randall said his main fear is that an anti-discrimination law protecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people will lead to the legalization of gay marriage.

    “Our agenda is not about what people do in their private lives, and we’re not trying to take something away from anyone,” Randall said. “We’re trying to preserve … the institution of marriage.”

    Reality Check:

    4. Freedom of religion or speech endangered

    Rep. Don Cox (R-Colfax):

    We see an unavoidable conflict with the First Amendment to our Constitution. …In cases where a church sponsors a Boy Scout troop or advertises publicly of its meetings or allows a 4-H group to meet in the church, if that body concludes that their faith does not allow the range of expression or affiliation granted on the basis of sexual orientation, what will be the outcome? Sexual orientation over religious freedom?

    Alec Rolands of Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, WA and head of Sound the Alarm said

    My concern is that all of the prohibitions on religious issues notwithstanding, that what this law will do when codified will open the door to what I believe will be a restriction of the freedom of the pulpit as has been the case in other nations in the world.

  • Senate floor debate 4-21-2005

    Sen. Hargrove (D-Hoquiam) during Senate floor debate of HB 1515 on 4-21-2005:

    If I at a church who do not believe in this particular behavior have somebody apply with this behavior, I have to hire them.  

    Sen. Dan Newhouse (R-15, Sunnyside) during the House floor debate of HB 1515 on 2-11-2005:

    There are the issues of churches and other groups who need to elect and appoint leaders of their organizations.

    John Mallinger TVW, USAF retired during the public hearing in the House Committee on State Government Operations & Accountability on February 1, 2005:

    If I want to write a letter in the Shelton Journal to the editor and speak out in regards to what I believe is an unnatural state that should not be encouraged, I would hate to think that I’m going to be fined or imprisoned because I speak my feelings on a matter which is related to what I feel is against nature.

    Rolf Amundson, a resident from LD-30 (Federal Way) said

    This bill will limit free speech rights for people of faith.

    Reality Check:

    5. The bill is a gift to lawyers

    Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester):

    [T]he definitions of gender expression and gender identity offered in this bill leave the door wide open for dispute and judicial reinterpretation in all kinds of ways.

    Sen. Joyce Mulliken (R-Ephrata):

    But what we’re saying now is by identifying sexual orientation which has a lot of subtitles under it it’s about homosexuals, lesbians, bisexual all kinds of other kinds subtitles that go under sexual orientation and it’s open to a lot of interpretation as to what that can mean. So now we are empowering or we’re actually, the Legislature is directing not empowering, they already have the power, we’re directing the Human Rights Commission to advocate, educate, promote under sexual orientation and we don’t really know what that means because there’s a long list of titles under that.

    Sen Val Stevens (R-Arlington):

    We wanted to be certain that that’s not included here.  Beastiology (sic) — there’s another bill coming before us that will also address that, but we wanted to include that in this amendment that we might understand exactly that this is not included in this sexual orientation bill before us.

     {LR:  Even though her amendment failed, HRC has not reported any attempts to include…}

    Sen. Brad Benson (R-Spokane):

    I believe that we’re opening a Pandora’s box on legal ambiguity today.

    Steve O’Ban, an attorney with a deep anti-gay history including representing state DOMA architects Rep. Gigi Talcott and Sen. Val Stevens in the Washington Supreme Court challenge to DOMA, said:

    {The bill} covers those who are self-proclaimed openly to be homosexuals.  This is a classification which is a mine field legally and as an attorney — as a plaintiffs attorney —  I can tell you that when you have a definition of gender identity as you have in this bill, it’s a gold mine for plaintiffs lawyers in the employment context.  It’s a moving target.  It will provide litigation, when you speak of unintended consequences, for plaintiffs lawyers.  This is not just about empowering the Human Rights Commission, it’s about empowering lawyers who have a right to bring a prior right of action on behalf of clients against employers and against landlords.

    Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church:

    You are kidding yourselves as senators if you think this is not going to lead to more lawsuits in small business than you can ever shake a stick at.

    Reality Check:

    6. Gay will be taught in schools

    Sen. Dan Swecker
    Sen. Joyce Mulliken

    Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester):

    {The Human Rights} Commission can create a state-sponsored pro-homosexual, education program that would be taught in our schools. In fact, it’s a poorly kept secret that the agenda for that program is actually ready to go, just waiting for this bill to pass.

    Sen. Joyce Mulliken (R-Ephrata):

    So, our kingergarteners are now going to hear the promotion of a life style that we know isn’t even preferred by those who live it.

    7. Turning away from God

    Sen. Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard) said

    By passing a law that makes homosexuality a protected behavior, we are turning our backs on the people who need our love, guidance and understanding to become right in God’s eyes.

    A religiously-based condemnatory view of gays and lesbians was expressed by certain other legislators, including Sen. Dan Swecker who told the Seattle Times that “I just read the Bible for what it says. It basically says that homosexuality is an abomination.”

    Reality Check:

    Show increase in religious support for LGBT issues, open and affirming churches, etc.

    “Sodomites” will be grated a title of nobility

    Carol Cassady, a retired school teacher and arch homophobe who stated in the 2004 voters’ guide that “Marriage is the God-ordained building block of the family, the bedrock of civil society. I support a federal marriage amendment affirming that marriage is one man, one woman,” told the Committee:

    HB 2661 will impose a tyranny by the minority — homosexuals, sodomites — against the majority in the great state of Washington.  …This bill will grant a title of sexual orientation.  According to the law of our land the US Constitution, Article 1, sections 9 and 10, no state shall grant any title of nobility.

    Reality Check:

    Beards & Dresses: Employer dress codes will be ignored

    Randy Leskovar, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in West Seattle said

    If a man shows up for a sales position at your company wearing womens’ clothes and make-up and a beard and you don’t hire them, you could be guilty of discrimination.

    Reality Check:  If an employer has a gender-specific dress code, employees must adhere to the code for their stated gender.  “Employers should permit employees to comply with these provisions in an appropriate manner that is consistent with their gender identity or expression,” says the Washington State Human Rights Commission.  “Beard and dress” scenarios are only possible where an employer chooses not mandate a gender-specific dress code.

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