Five Spokane-area lawmakers are among 26 legislators who signed a letter protesting a photo exhibit in the Capitol rotunda that depicts gay and lesbian people as normal, healthy members of society.
The Republican House members called the pictures “a total violation of the trust that the citizens of this state place in their government.”
The letter also says the pictures amount to a “homosexual political campaign” and the decision to display them “demonstrated blatant disrespect and disregard for the integrity and work of this state Legislature.”
After all, the letter says, the House recently passed a bill outlawing same-sex marriage. The bill died in the Senate.
The letter was sent Tuesday to the General Services Administration.
East Side representatives who signed it were Larry Crouse and Mark Sterk, both of Spokane; Larry Sheahan of Rosalia; Steve Fuhrman of Kettle Falls and Cathy McMorris of Colville.
The pictures show gay and lesbian people doing everyday things: working at the office, eating popcorn with friends, training a horse, taking a walk.
The pictures are accompanied by quotations from the people photographed, such as a sheriff’s deputy - shown in uniform and leaning against her squad car.
She says: “When I read Bible verses, I know I don’t need to fear hell and damnation. God created me and is with me every day and loves me just the way I am.”
The pictures are being displayed at the request of Sen. Kathleen Drew, D-Issaquah, and her family. Drew, whose sister is a lesbian, said the pictures are important because they show “we are all the same. We share a common humanity.
“It’s harder to hate people you know something about, and people with whom you feel something in common.”
The pictures violate no policy, said Bart Potter, spokesman for the General Services Administration. They went on display Monday and will be removed Friday when the display is scheduled to end, Potter said.
Removing the pictures would be a restriction of free speech, valid only if it served a “compelling government interest,” wrote John Franklin, director of the administration in his response to the letter.
The touring photographic exhibit has been shown in Salem in the Oregon state Capitol. Its display in Olympia was intended to honor the late Cal Anderson of Seattle, a gay Democratic state senator who died of AIDS last year.
Displays are set up in the Capitol rotunda throughout the Legislative session on all manner of subjects, from tourism to agriculture.
The state has no say over the content, except that it be in keeping with the “decorum” of the seat of government. Anyone may assemble and request exhibition of a display.
Lawmakers opposed to the photographs said they amount to state approval and promotion of homosexuality.
Fuhrman called the display “a mild form of pro-homosexual sensitivity training.
“It is my responsibility to object, and make sure that it is not accepted by people that it’s the normal thing,” he said.
“It’s wrong, just like adultery or sex outside marriage. It’s not according to God’s word, and what we’ve had for hundreds of years as our moral teaching.”
Crouse said his objections weren’t on moral grounds.
“I don’t have problems with what people do behind closed doors. And I don’t think government can legislate morality,” he said.
“But that lifestyle is terribly destructive, both emotionally and physically.
“It’s wrong to say it’s a normal healthy lifestyle, it’s OK. People get AIDS. That’s a death sentence.”
Sheahan said he objects to the display because the rotunda is frequented by swarms of school children touring the Capitol. “There is a more appropriate venue.”
Rep. Edward Murray, D-Seattle, the only openly-gay member of the Legislature, called a press conference with other House Democrats Wednesday who decried the GOP reaction.
“I think the Legislature has more important things to do than object to pictures of gay police officers and gay Realtors,” Murray said. “There is a portion of that Republican caucus that is out of control.”