State Sen. Eugene Prince told gay and lesbian students at Washington State University on Tuesday that he does not expect pending anti-gay initiatives to become law.
The Thornton Republican said he is unsure initiative organizers will collect enough signatures. And if they do, their measures will die in the Legislature, Prince said. That automatically would place them before voters, who probably would vote them down, he said.
Meanwhile, Prince encouraged the 30 or so WSU students, staff and faculty members in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Allies office to wage a low-key fight against the measures.
“An issue of this type you should not give up on,” he said.
Organizers have six more weeks to collect enough voter signatures for the two proposals.
Initiative 166, the “Equal Rights, Not Special Rights Act,” would ban antidiscrimination laws pertaining to homosexuals and would prohibit public schools from depicting homosexuality as acceptable behavior. It would force repeal of WSU’s policy banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Initiative 167 would prevent gays and lesbians from adopting children, becoming foster parents or getting child custody in divorce cases.
Backers of similar initiatives fell just shy of the 181,667 signatures needed for a spot on the November 1994 general election ballot. Rather than push to meet a July deadline for this year’s election, organizers drafted initiatives that will go directly to the Legislature and force lawmakers to approve them as law - the governor’s signature would not be required - or pass them on to voters in original or amended form.
Annetta Small, state campaign chairwoman for Initiative 166, declined to say how many signatures have been placed on the 100,000 petitions in circulation.
“It’s too soon to tell where we’re at, if we’re going to make it,” she said.
If the proposal does reach the Legislature, she said, lawmakers probably would pass it on to the voters.
Prince said both initiatives probably would be passed by the House but would not clear the Senate. Republican senators are outnumbered by Democrats, 24-25, and his own contingent of four or five moderate Republicans probably would vote against the initiatives, he said.
Prince acknowledged he would face some opposition from voters in the generally conservative 9th District, which stretches from Clarkston to Spokane and Pullman to Othello.
“It’s a much tougher issue in a rural district,” he said. “That type of district hasn’t moved along as far as some others, … and their thinking hasn’t changed as much. But that’s part of the game. You’re in it to do what you think is right and to help your district.”
“I just believe everybody’s got equal rights,” he said afterwards. “That’s where I come from. I’m not going to pick on anyone.”
While in the House, Prince voted in favor of a gay rights bill but cautioned against passing it in 1994 for fear of provoking the very initiatives looming now. The 1994 gay rights bill - the 18th proposed by the late gay state Sen. Cal Anderson - died in the Senate.
Prince predicted several more years of anti-gay efforts as conservative religious forces continue to press for their various social concerns in the Legislature.
“When you’ve got people who say the Bible tells them this is what they’ve got to do, that’s very difficult to head off,” he said. “There’s been more wars and more people killed in the name of God. I hope I’m not offending somebody, but that is very true if you go down through the history of man.”
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