December 16, 1995 in Nation/World

Two Anti-Gay Rights Initiatives Fall Short Proponents Unlikely To Come Up With Enough Signatures To Put Measures On Ballot

Lynda V. Mapes Staff writer
 

Two anti-gay initiatives proposed to the 1996 Legislature are unlikely to garner the signatures needed for consideration, backers say.

The measures would outlaw adoption by gay people and prevent enactment of laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“We’re not going to make it,” said Sam Woodard, head of the Citizens Alliance of Washington, proponent of Initiative 167, the adoption measure.

The campaign attracted little money, about $5,000 in all, Woodard said. Growth of his organization has also been stalled at about 400 members since last year. “I’m tired. Just plain worn out. I may even retire.”

The second measure, Initiative 166, would prohibit amending the state civil rights law to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“I don’t think it’s likely” to get enough signatures, said Cathy Mickels of Lynden.

Mickels, president of the state chapter of the Eagle Forum, ran last year’s campaign for Initiative 608, an identical measure. It failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Backers have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 29 to gather valid signatures of at least 181,667 registered voters to put the initiatives before the Legislature for consideration.

Proponents of I-166 were expected to have easier sledding this time around, because they had an additional six months to gather signatures under the initiative to the Legislature process.

They also had the mailing list from the I-608 campaign to build on. But the initiative hasn’t attracted as much money or support as hoped, said Spokane’s Penny Lancaster, head of the Coalition for Better Community Standards.

“It’s really hard to get people to go out and stand on street corners.”

The response from churches also was disappointing, Lancaster said. While about 250 Spokane-area churches agreed to have the petitions placed in their lobbies for signatures, church leaders by and large didn’t take up the cause.

“In terms of speaking about it on Sunday or putting announcements in the church bulletin - and that’s the kind of thing that could make all the difference - I don’t know how many did.

“I first contacted them in the spring, then followed up in the fall and some (petitions) had gotten lost in the dark,” Lancaster said. “They had forgotten all about it.”

Annetta Small of Bellingham, chairwoman of the I-166 drive, said she will move on to other issues if the measure doesn’t qualify.

Both Small and Mickels are interested in pushing a law this legislative session to ban same-sex marriages.

Small blamed the initiative process itself, and harassment by opponents, for I-166’s troubles. It is difficult for volunteers to gather signatures, particularly when some opponents paint backers as hate mongers and bigots, Small said.

Lancaster said she encountered no harassment when gathering signatures in Spokane.

David Brine, spokesman for Secretary of State Ralph Munro, said his officer received no proof of harassment. “Not the kind of thing you can take to court.”

He disagreed that the initiative process is too challenging.

“Some people look at the signature-gathering requirement as a nuisance. But the people who put this process together were smart: they wanted people to have at least a modicum of support for their ideas before they go on the ballot.”

Lancaster said she still believes in I-166, and that special legal protections for gay people are wrong.

“I should be able to decide that homosexuality is not something I want to endorse by giving someone a job or renting to them. It’s important that they be afforded respect and compassion, but this is going to the other extreme.”

Jan Bianchi, president of Hands Off Washington in Seattle, said both initiatives are discriminatory, and that’s why voters don’t support them.

“This is way too extreme for Washington state.”

She doesn’t expect the anti-gay movement to go away. New initiatives already have been filed in Oregon and Idaho, and a bill is before Washington’s Legislature to outlaw gay adoption.

Hands Off Washington, meanwhile, continues to gather force. The anti-discrimination group raised about $400,000 this year, and has a full-time staff of six in Seattle, more than 1,000 volunteers in that city alone, and an active donor base of more than 20,000 people statewide.

“We are determined to fight discrimination in our communities and to fight for basic rights for all citizens,” Bianchi said.

, DataTimes


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email