A new anti-gay rights initiative Wednesday touched off a debate over whether Gov. Mike Lowry’s administration is using tax dollars to ensure “homosexual affirmative action” in state government.
Sponsors of an initiative to ban “special minority status based on sexual behavior” blasted the governor’s 1993 executive order called “A Vision for Diversity in the state of Washington,” and released copies of the “Sexual Minority Initiative” being implemented at the superagency Department of Social and Health Services.
The backer of a second initiative, to ban gay adoptions, said the state is condoning “social experimentation with children” by permitting the placements.
Lowry’s office flatly rejected the criticisms, saying he supports gays in the workplace, but not quotas or affirmative action help. The governor is a longtime gay-rights advocate and is expected to help lead the opposition to the initiatives, as he did last year when a pair of measures failed to make the ballot.
The anti-gay rights activists said the administration is improperly using tax dollars to conduct diversity training and to give special consideration to gays and lesbians in state government.
The order would be rescinded under terms of the new initiative, which also would ban schools from presenting homosexuality in a positive light.
House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, and other GOP legislators expressed alarm about the DSHS document and said the Legislature had not been consulted.
Jason Small, 20, the Whatcom County man who serves as spokesman for the Washington Committee for Equal Rights Not Special Rights, quoted the governor’s executive order as demanding “a current affirmative action program with specific, measurable goals and objectives for employment and promotion of protected group members.”
That class includes gays and lesbians and will give them preferential treatment in hiring and promotion, he said. Diversity training is “nothing more than disguised promotion of the homosexual lifestyle at the taxpayer’s expense” and dissent is not tolerated, he said.
“How many citizens in this state, if they knew about it, want their tax dollars used to promote homosexual preferential treatment, courtesy of Lowry’s executive order?” Small said at a press conference in the ornate State Reception Room at the Capitol.
The governor’s office said the Lowry policies are nothing more than reaffirming the state’s longstanding policy against employment discrimination against gay state workers. The DSHS document is a simple checklist to mark progress to removing employment barriers and to providing appropriate services to a diverse clientele, said Lowry spokesman Jordan Dey.
“Our executive order in no way reserves special status for gays and lesbians,” Dey said in an interview.